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KYIV: One of Europe’s biggest iron and steel works, Azovstal, has been badly damaged as Russian forces lay siege to the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, officials said Sunday.

“One of the biggest metallurgic plants in Europe destroyed. The economic losses for Ukraine are huge. The environment is devastated,” tweeted Ukrainian lawmaker Lesia Vasylenko.

Vasylenko posted a video of explosions on an industrial site, with thick columns of grey and black smoke rising from the buildings.

One of her colleagues, Serhiy Taruta, wrote on Facebook that Russian forces “had practically destroyed the factory”.

“We will return to the city, rebuild the enterprise and revive it,” Azovstal’s director general Enver Tskitishvili wrote on messaging app Telegram, without specifying the extent of the damage.

He said that when the invasion began on February 24, the factory had taken measures to reduce the environmental damage in the event of being hit.

“Coke oven batteries no longer pose a danger to the lives of residents,” he wrote. “We have also stopped the blast furnaces correctly.”

Azovstal is part of the Metinvest group, which is controlled by Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov.

Ukraine says mosque sheltering 80 civilians shelled in Mariupol

Considered pro-Moscow before the war began, Akhmetov has since accused Russian troops of committing “crimes against humanity against Ukrainians”.

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