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Russian Ballistic Missile Test Fails - 2004-02-18

An unarmed Russian ballistic missile went off course and destroyed itself Wednesday, after a test-firing in the Barents Sea.

A spokesman for Russia's Northern Fleet says the missile self-destructed about 98 seconds into the flight, after it veered off course.

The spokesman did not elaborate on what may have caused the malfunction, but said the Navy is investigating.

The mishap comes just one day after two other test-firings reportedly failed, as Russian President Vladimir Putin looked on. The military denied reports of those two problems.

President Putin, who has made military reform a top priority of his presidency, has had only praise for the large-scale exercises taking place just one month before Russia's presidential election.

The president was not in the area of Wednesday's failed test, having left a submarine on the Barents Sea earlier for the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia. There, he watched the successful launch of a military satellite.