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Soviet air chief reported as being killed on duty

The chief of staff of the Soviet air defense forces, Col. Gen. Semyon Romanov , ''died suddenly while performing official duties,'' the Army daily Red Star said Tuesday. It gave no other details.

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Western diplomats said the wording of the announcement could mean General Romanov died in a plane or helicopter crash but might indicate he had been killed observing Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

Some Western military experts believe Romanov gave the order to shoot down a South Korean airliner last September, killing all 269 people aboard.

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