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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.

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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