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Two soldiers injured as Russia’s only aircraft carrier catches fire

MOSCOW, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Russia's only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, caught fire on Thursday during maintenance work in Russia's Arctic port in Murmansk, and two soldiers were injured, Russian news agencies cited the defence ministry as saying.

The ship was successfully evacuated, the United Shipbuilding Corporation said, with emergency services working to tackle the blaze that began in the ship’s hold.

The Admiral Kuznetsov has seen action in Russia’s military campaign in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad, with its planes carrying out air strikes on rebel forces.

Misfortune has befallen the ship before. The vessel sustained damage during repair work last year when the floating dock holding it sank and a crane crashed onto its deck, leaving a gash up to five metres (16.5 feet) wide.

News agencies reported earlier that Thursday’s fire in Murmansk had injured six people, citing a source.

TASS news agency said the blaze had started on the upper deck and that thick, black smoke was billowing from the vessel.

A source in the emergency services told TASS that firefighters were finding it difficult to reach the blaze because of the heavy smoke caused by burning cables.

The Admiral Kuznetsov gained notoriety in Britain in 2017 when then-Defence Secretary Michael Fallon dubbed it the “ship of shame” as it passed through waters close to the English coast en route back from the Mediterranean belching black smoke. (Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy and Alexander Marrow; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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