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Ukraine says it struck big Russian steel plant on invasion anniversary

Published 24/02/2024, 03:32
Updated 24/02/2024, 16:00
© Reuters.

(Reuters) -Ukrainian drones hit a major Russian steel factory overnight, causing a large fire, a Kyiv source said on Saturday, the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The governor of Russia's Lipetsk region identified the plant as one in the city of Lipetsk, some 400 km (250 miles) north of the Ukrainian border, that is responsible for about 18% of Russian steel output.

He said a fire apparently caused by a drone strike had been extinguished at the plant, operated by Russian steelmaker Novolipetsk (NLMK), and there had been no casualties.

"There is no significant impact on the plant's operations," he added on Saturday night.

The Ukrainian source told Reuters the attack, a joint operation by GUR military intelligence and the SBU security service, had caused a major fire and staff had been evacuated.

"Raw materials from this enterprise are used to manufacture Russian missiles, artillery, drones. Therefore, it is a legitimate goal for Ukraine," the source said, without specifying the location of the plant.

Video posted on social media purporting to be from Lipetsk showed an explosion, with orange flames illuminating the nighttime sky.

NLMK said on social media the fire had broken out at 1:40 a.m. (2240 GMT on Friday). The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plant's production was suspended while an investigative team worked onsite, said a source familiar with the matter. The visible damage was not significant, the source added.

The Lipetsk plant specialises in flat steel, making 80% of NLMK's steel products.

Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian military and industrial targets have become increasingly common in recent months, notably hitting oil facilities that Kyiv says are vital to the Russian war effort, but Ukrainian sources had not previously claimed responsibility for an attack on a steel plant.

NLMK said in October 2022 that its Russian operations were not capable of producing military-grade heavy steels and did not supply goods to the military, only rolled strip steel for general civilian use.

Russian authorities said Ukrainian drones had been downed over the Lipetsk, Kursk and Tula regions overnight.

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