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Results of one-dimensional Particle-in-Cell numerical simulations of mechanism of sub-nanosecond high-voltage pulsed discharge in nitrogen are presented. It is shown that the decrease of the cathode-anode gap changes drastically both the discharge dynamics and mechanism of runaway electrons generation responsible for the discharge initiation. It is obtained that the virtual cathode exists only during tens of picoseconds for short gaps. The conditions when the virtual cathode is not formed are found. Also, the comparison between the experimental [Rybka etal, Tech. Phys. Lett. 38, 653 (2012)] and simulation results indicates the dominant role of the virtual cathode in termination of runaway electrons generation and on separate nature of emission sources from the cathode surface.