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Russia looking for thieves who hit Putin’s nuclear ‘Doomsday Plane’

A Russian Il-80 plane and fighter jets St. Basil's Cathedral near Red Square in Moscow on May 4, 2010 during a Victory Day parade rehearsal. ANDREI SMIRNOV/AFP via Getty Images

A Russian aircraft designed to survive a nuclear war was no match for a group of suspected thieves, who police say breached the plane and stole armloads of military-grade communications equipment last week.

Police in Russia announced an investigation into the theft on Wednesday, following media reports of the break-in on Friday.

The top-secret “Doomsday Plane” is specially designed to serve as a mobile command centre for Russia’s leader in the event of a nuclear war. It’s a modified Soviet jetliner that dates back to the last days of the Cold War and is thought to be packed with communications technology needed to run the country from the sky.

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Authorities say the theft happened during maintenance work on the aircraft in Taganrog, a city in the southern region of Rostov.

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The culprits appeared to have broken in through the cargo hatch before making off with 39 electronic units, Russian media reported last Friday.

Authorities say the stolen material was worth about one million rubles (US$13,600). No suspects have been identified.

The incident has become a headache for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who recently devoted large sums of money to overhauling the Russian military.

The Kremlin says it will ensure that such an incident does not happen again.

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The United States also has a Doomsday Plane standing ready in the event of a nuclear war. The aircraft are more functional and tough than the president’s regular aircraft, Air Force One.

Both countries are said to have four Doomsday Planes, with one on standby at all times in the event of war.

With files from Reuters

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