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KIEV, March 23. /TASS/. The large-scale blaze at an arms depot in northeastern Ukraine’s Kharkov region will not affect the country’s transit of Russian gas to the European Union, a spokesman for the country’s gas pipeline operator Ukrtransgaz said Thursday.
"We guarantee: the transit flow was re-channeled through the Sudzha (gas metering station in Russia)," he wrote on his Facebook page.
The fire at a military depot in the Balakleya district in the heart of the Kharkov Region started at around 3.00 a.m. local time (0100GMT) at several storage facilities for missiles and artillery weapons. No casualty figures are available to date, but a 54-year-old woman was injured by a piece of shrapnel that hit her in the temple, according to local police.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groisman said that the fire has engulfed nearly a half of the entire territory of the military facility and extinguishing it "may take up to seven days."
"At the moment, we are looking into a (possibility of) subversive act, which is still not ruled out, but negligence is being investigated as well," he said.
The region’s governor said that munitions still continue to explode and the blaze threatens the nearby residential buildings.
‘Today, there is still a threat that residential buildings may catch fire. However, the entire scope of damage will be fully assessed only after the blasts cease and the fire is contained," Yulia Svetlichnaya told the NewsOne TV channel in Ukraine.
At the moment, a total of 24 evacuation centers have been set up for those who were forced to flee their homes because of the blaze. According to Ukrainian presidential spokesman Svyatoslav Tsegolko, a total of 20,000 people have already been evacuated from within the 10-kilometer zone around the facility.
The authorities have also imposed a 50-km no-fly zone above the area.
Ukrainian President Petr Poroshenko instructed a number of governmental bodies to request for NATO aid in demining the territory after the disaster.
"I urgently instructed the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry and the emergencies service to get NATO assistance for humanitarian demining in Balakleya," the Ukrainian leader wrote on his Twitter page.