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Russian rocket crashes after lift-off in Kazakhstan

An unmanned Russian rocket carrying three navigation satellites has crashed at a launch facility in Kazakhstan shortly after taking off. Officials have said toxic rocket fuel was released in the air during the crash.

The Russian booster rocket veered off course seconds after lift-off from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome launch facility in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, spilling its highly toxic fuel.

State-run Rossiya-24 television captured footage of the rocket falling apart in flames in the air and then crashing in a big ball of fire at around 8:38 a.m. (0238 GMT).

The Russian Space Agency, Roskosmos, said in a statement that the Proton-M booster rocket unexpectedly shut down the engine seconds into the flight and crashed about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away from the launch site.

There were no reported injuries, however Roskosmos, said toxic rocket fuel was released in the air during the accident.

An agency spokesman could not immediately say whether people living near the site were being evacuated due to the spill.                    

The satellites were meant for Russia's Glonass satellite navigation system, Russia's answer to the US GPS system. Estimates damages from the crash totaled $200 million (153 million euros), Rossiya-24 reported.

Russia has suffered several recent setbacks with previous launches, including one in 2012 in which two satellites were lost.

hc/dr (Reuters, AP, AFP)