Blaze 'sets off Russian rockets'
Tuesday, 27 May 2008

BBC Online

A fire at an air base arms depot in north-western Russia has reportedly set off several missiles, but caused no deaths or injuries.

Amateur video shows what appear to be at least two rockets zigzagging through a clear afternoon sky around the Lodeynoe Pole base near St Petersburg.

Unofficial sources say that at least 400 air-to-air rockets were damaged at a cost of about $82m (£41m).

Friday's fire apparently began during repairs when workers were on a break.

Col-Gen Aleksandr Zelin, commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, confirmed a number of air-to-air-missiles had exploded in the fire.

Earlier, an air force spokesman, Col Alexander Drobyshevsky, denied that any rockets had taken to the air as a result of the incident.

'Like fireworks but worse'

An unnamed police source told Russia's Ria Novosti news agency that more than 400 of the missiles had been destroyed, at a total cost of at least $82m.

For its part, the Interfax news agency quoted an anonymous Russian security source as saying 450 missiles were destroyed at a cost of $100m.

Local resident Sergei Donko told Russian television he had seen three missiles come down.

One exploded "like fireworks on 9 May [Victory Day in Russia] but... even worse", he added.

Another local man, Igor Kovalyov, said:

"They were really passing over our heads and we were guessing whether it would come to our house or not. Finally it landed here, causing a fire as a result."

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