Two killed in Lukoil refinery fire in northwestern Russia

MOSCOW (Reuters) -A fire on Sunday at an oil refinery owned by Lukoil in Russia's Komi Republic region killed two people and left another seriously injured, the country's nuclear and environmental watchdog Rostechnadzor said.

Vladimir Uiba, head of the Komi Republic, said the fire at the refinery near the city of Ukhta had been caused by a failure to comply with safety rules and not by drone attacks that have targeted some Russian refineries since the war with Ukraine.

The Pechora branch of Rostechnadzor said two people had died and one was in a serious condition.

The Komi Republic's Investigative Committee opened a criminal investigation.

The regional branch of Russia's emergencies ministry said 74 of its staff were working to extinguish the fire, which occurred in a tank at the refinery, four kilometres (2.5 miles) from Ukhta.

The fire was localised after several hours and extinguished at 07:30 p.m. (1630 GMT), the ministry said.

"According to revised data, it was established that a fire occurred during routine technical works by a contracting company," the ministry said.

The refinery's press service said the plant was operating normally.

"I would like to immediately reassure the residents of Ukhta and Komi - the fire is not connected with attacks by enemy drones," Uiba wrote on Telegram.

Several Russian oil facilities have had to contend with outbreaks of fires in recent months. Some were caused by drone attacks from Ukraine, adding to uncertainty in global oil and gas markets which were already jittery due to the conflict in the Middle East.

Russia and Ukraine have both used drones to strike critical infrastructure, military installations and troop concentrations in their more than two-year conflict.

(Reporting by Reuters; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Susan Fenton)