September 13, 2009 / 4:28 PM / in 10 years

Secret Russian military files feared lost in fire

MOSCOW, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Top secret military documents may have been destroyed or damaged during a fire at a Russian military base on Sunday that killed five soldiers, RIA news agency reported, quoting an unnamed special services source.

The blaze at the base in Tambov, around 400 km (250 miles) southeast of Moscow, occurred in an intelligence agency building where classified documents of special importance to Russia were kept, RIA reported, quoting what it described as a high-ranking source in the local region’s special services.

"The fire seriously affected the secret part, which contained documents of special importance to the state. According to preliminary information, the damage is assessed as very serious," the source was quoted by RIA as saying.

Interfax news agency also carried a report of the fire at the local headquarters of the intelligence directorate of the General Staff.

The blaze broke out at about 10.00am local time (O6OO GMT) and took 17 fire fighting units to bring under control, Russian news agencies reported.

Around 400 square metres were destroyed, with two officers and three conscripts killed and seven more injured.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

Russia’s deputy Defence Minister and high-ranking officers from the intelligence services travelled to the site, RIA reported.

No one was available at the defence ministry to comment on the reports and no further details were available.

(Reporting by Conor Sweeney; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

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