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DID SOVIET PLANES CARRY ONLY FAKE NUCLEAR BOMBS?

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Soviet military officials, afraid of a possible nuclear accident, ordered strategic bombers to carry only dummy warheads even at the height of the Cold War, a newspaper said Thursday.

"We have never flown with real nuclear weapons," Maj. Gen. Anatoly Solovyov, deputy commander of the Russian air force's long-range branch, said in an interview with the weekly Literatur- naya Gazeta. "We were carrying only fake warheads."Solovyov said safety was the main concern.

In commentary, the newspaper said carrying fake weapons "wasn't only an excessive caution caused by traditional Russian sloppiness but rather a reasonable decision not to expose ourselves and others to excessive risks.

"American aircraft twice lost nuclear weapons" the newspaper said.