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Fire rages in showpiece Grozny skyscraper

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A fire raged in a 40-storey skyscraper in the Chechnya capital Grozny on Wednesday, a building which is a centrepiece of a drive by local authorities to promote the city as a glitzy and modern hub.

State television pictures showed a huge plume of smoke rising into the sky and clinging to the sides of the building with bursts of yellow flames snaking down the facade.

"The fire broke out at 6:15 pm (1415 GMT) in a 40-storey uninhabited building in Grozny-City," the emergency situations ministry said in a statement on its website.

"We have no reports of casualties... The fire is currently spreading across the building's facade via the plastic outer panels," the spokesman for the North Caucasus regional branch of the Emergency Situations ministry, Kantemir Davydov, told the Interfax news agency.

Eighty firemen were at the scene, the emergency situations ministry said. The interior ministry also confirmed there were no casualties.

A witness photograph posted on Twitter showed flames and smoke pouring from the building in the Grozny-City complex named the Olympus tower, which is topped by a giant clock face and stands 145 metres (475 feet) tall.

The complex of skyscrapers is a key symbol of the once war-torn city's rebirth under strongman local leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Kadyrov feted its opening in 2011 with an open-air concert featuring pop singer Seal and violinist Vanessa Mae and with guests including US actress Hillary Swank and action star Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The glitzy gala, which coincided with Kadyrov's 35th birthday, culminated in a firework display over the skyscrapers.

Russian media reported that Kadyrov handed French actor Gerard Depardieu keys to a five-room apartment in the complex in February after President Vladimir Putin granted him Russian citizenship.

NTV television reported that Depardieu's apartment was in a neighbouring skyscraper to the one on fire.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130403/fire-rages-showpiece-grozny-skyscraper