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To Canada, Russian bombers are too close for comfort

In a scene similar to one from the movie Top Gun, Canadian fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers and prevented them from entering Canada's airspace off the coast of Newfoundland.

Two CF-18 jets and crews "scrambled very quickly" to repel the Russian Tu-95 long-range bombers, Defense Minister Peter McKay said Friday.

"This was a message, clearly, to them that we will have CF-18 fighter planes there to greet them every time," he added.

The pair of Russian "Bear" aircraft came "closer than we have seen in recent times," McKay noted, adding these occurrences are designed to "give the impression of greater power and greater assertiveness."

In February 2009, two Russian bombers were intercepted just outside the Canadian Arctic and were turned back hours before President Barack Obama's visit to Canada.

Critics suggest that publicity of the latest incident is well timed with the Canadian government's recent announcement to spend $16 billion to buy 65 new F-35 fighter jets.

Canada is competing with Russia and other arctic nations to claim the frozen north that is rich in natural resources.

News in brief

• Cuban officials have released Cody LeCompte, 19, of Simcoe, Ontario, who had been held since April after an accident involving a rental car. He could return to Canada on Tuesday. Canadian officials persuaded Cuba that publicity surrounding the case could be a detriment to tourism.

• Canada's economic recovery has slowed slightly as the gross domestic product rose 0.1 percent in May, with losses in construction, utilities and service sectors. There were some modest gains in mining, agriculture, fishing and forestry, while home sales were down as prices and interest rates increased.

• The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled against a new trial for Robert Pickton, who was convicted of murdering six sex-trade workers in British Columbia. The former pig farmer was sentenced to life in prison without parole for at least 25 years. Pickton still faces trial in the deaths of 20 other women.

Facts and figures

Canada's dollar moved higher to 97.35 cents U.S. on Friday, while the U.S. greenback returned $1.0272 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate is 0.75 percent, while the prime lending rate is steady at 2.75 percent.

Canadian stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 11,733 points and the TSX Venture Exchange at 1,425 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 2, 15, 27, 30, 34, 36; bonus 31. (July 24) 3, 6, 26, 32, 43, 49; bonus 29. Lotto Max: (July 23) 17, 19, 26, 29, 34, 35, 38; bonus 47.

Regional briefs:

• Two pilots fighting a wildfire in British Columbia's southern interior were injured when their helicopter crashed near Lillooet. The pilot had a concussion and leg injuries, and the co-pilot suffered minor injuries. The Trans­west Helicopters pilots said they lost power in midair. Lightning strikes caused 165 new wildfires in the province by midweek.

• Manitoba daredevil Dean Gunnarson narrowly escaped being run over by a speeding roller coaster during a performance in China. The escape artist from Riding Mountain injured his right foot when clipped by the coaster after being chained and handcuffed to the track. He said nothing went wrong aside from tripping over the track. Gunnarson said his next stunt will be escaping from a locked steel coffin buried six feet underground for 48 hours.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

To Canada, Russian bombers are too close for comfort 07/31/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:08pm]
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