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Results of time- and space-resolved spectroscopic studies of cathode plasma during a S-band relativistic magnetron operation and a magnetically insulated diode having an identical interelectrode gap are presented. It was shown that in the case of the magnetron operation, one obtains an earlier, more uniform plasma formation due to energetic electrons' interaction with the cathode surface and ionization of desorbed surface monolayers. No differences were detected in the cathode's plasma temperature between the magnetron and the magnetically insulated diode operation, and no anomalous fast cathode plasma expansion was observed in the magnetron at rf power up to 350 MW.