Published reports Friday quote the Soviet Union's top military officer as saying Moscow has removed nuclear warheads from areas of the country where there is a risk of ethnic unrest.

Gen. Mikhail Moiseyev, the Soviet Union's armed forces chief of staff, told The Washington Post that the trouble spots were cleared of the nuclear weapons because his nation recognizes its obligation "before mankind" to ensure complete security over its nuclear arsenal.The newspaper interviewed Moiseyev on the eve of the Soviet official's tour of the United States.

It was the first official confirmation that part of the Soviet Union's 30,000 nuclear warhead arsenal was being relocated.

While the general did not specifically identify affected areas, the newspaper said Western defense attaches believe Central Asia, the southern Transcaucasus region and the Baltic Republics are involved.

Those areas have been the scene of sometimes violent ethnic and nationalist unrest in the past two years.

Moiseyev said similar actions have been taken on non-nuclear weapons.