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MOSCOW (Reuters) - At least one person was killed and 35 were missing after a series of blasts ripped through a Russian arms depot on Friday, forcing the evacuation of over 3,000 people, local news agencies reported.
Russia's defence ministry said fire broke out when soldiers attempted to decommission munitions at Arsenal No. 31 on the outskirts of Ulyanovsk, a city on the banks of the Volga River some 800 km (500 miles) southeast of Moscow.
"We have evacuated more than 3,000 civilians," Interfax news agency quoted Sergei Morozov, the governor of the Ulyanovsk region, as saying. "About 35 people are considered missing."
Russia's Vesti-24 state television showed a huge fire lighting up the evening sky above the city. It compared the blasts to a giant firework display, visible from 15 km (eight miles) away, which knocked out the windows of nearby houses.
Morozov said he doubted the explosions had been caused by a terrorist attack. Officials said nothing other than conventional munitions, largely artillery shells, were stored at the base.
An local emergency official was quoted as saying one person had been killed.
"Measures are being taken to put out the fire," Alexei Kuznetsov, a spokesman for the defence ministry, was shown saying on Russian television.
Russia's poorly trained and badly paid military have suffered frequent accidents with their ageing equipment in recent years. Western military attaches say safety standards are low.
(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Ralph Boulton)