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9. Man who averted possible nuclear war dies

A former Soviet military officer credited with averting a possible nuclear war during the Cold War has died at the age of 77.

European media reports say former lieutenant colonel Stanislav Petrov died in May at his home in a Moscow suburb.

When Petrov was on duty at a nuclear attack early-warning center near Moscow in September of 1983, the warning system went off, indicating that 5 US missiles had been fired at the Soviet Union.

He decided that the system had malfunctioned, since it was unlikely that such a small number of missiles would have been used for a first strike. He did not report the alarm to his superiors.

The alarm was later found to have been an error. But Petrov was criticized for failing to comply with military rules, and was denied promotion.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Petrov's case came to light. It was learned that if he had reported the alarm to his superiors, the Soviet Union could have launched a retaliatory attack, as tensions were high at the time.

A documentary film about Petrov was released in 2014.

In an interview with the BBC in 2013, Petrov said he recalled the sense of relief he felt when, 23 minutes after he made the decision, he learned that there had been no attack.
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