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OOPS! POWER TO NUKES SWITCHED OFF

Russia's top brass was apoplectic Thursday over the switching off of electricity to the strategic nuclear missile command center, and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin promised to punish those responsible.

"There are no words in the Russian language, even unprintable ones, to describe what happened," Strategic Missile Commander Igor Sergeyev told the RIA news agency."You cannot even imagine how much switching off the electricity threatened the security of the country."

The Moscow region electricity authority cut off the arsenal, which has enough firepower to wipe out human life on much of the planet, Wednesday because of unpaid bills.

Duty officers kept the command center going with a backup system, and after about four hours the power was restored, according to military officials.

The command said in a statement, quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency, that the preparedness of the rocket force, the Kremlin's main deterrent during the Cold War, had not been harmed.