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Fire Destroys Historic Moscow Building - 2004-03-14

A massive fire has destroyed an historic Soviet-era exhibition hall just off Red Square in downtown Moscow.

The blaze broke out late Sunday night in the Manezh building. The roof of the nearly 200 year old structure collapsed, killing two firefighters.

Heat from the blaze also shattered windows in a nearby Moscow State University building.

Russian news agencies quote an emergencies ministry official as saying an electrical short circuit may have caused the fire. Authorities have opened a criminal investigation.

The 4,500 square meter building was built in 1817. It was originally an equestrian center for soldiers and aristocrats. It has since been used as an exhibition hall and for trade shows.