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Soviet ammunition depot reported destroyed in blast

A major ammunition depot of the Soviet Navy's Northern Fleet was apparently destroyed last month by an explosion so intense that it was mistaken by US authorities for a nuclear blast, according to United States intelligence sources.

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The massive mid-May explosion was detected by US reconnaissance satellites and other means of intelligence, the sources, who requested anonymity, said last week. The officials said the explosion was at Severomorsk, 900 miles north of Moscow and near Murmansk, the Northern Fleet's home port.

The officials said as much as one-third of the Northern Fleet's surface-to-air missiles, vital for a ship's protection from air attack, may have been destroyed.