Апреля 24 2018

Amid mounting anger at scene of mallfire, Putin pledges action

Апреля 24 2018, 06:45 | Irvin Gilbert

Dmitry Saturin Reuters

Dmitry Saturin  Reuters

Re-elected last week, Putin laid flowers at a memorial service for the victims in the coal-producing region 3600km east of Moscow, before chairing a meeting of top officials.

"What is happening here - this was not a combat situation, not an unexpected methane outburst in a mine", he said.

Chernov, who attended the demonstration, told reporters on March 28 that around 25 to 30 percent of the crowd was made up of people "who came to offer their sympathy", the Interfax news agency reported. The investigators have launched a criminal probe into possible negligence and violation of fire safety. "How could this ever happen?" he added.

Investigators have revealed that the fire alarms were switched off and that some exits were blocked.

Hundreds of angry protesters, many of them crying, gathered in central Kemerovo. Mayor Ilya Seredyuk tried to speak, but his words were often drowned out by chants calling on him to resign.

Funerals began in Russian Federation on Wednesday for the 64 people, majority children, whose deaths in a fire at a Siberian shopping mall have roused public anger over official corruption and incompetence.

Facing public outrage, the Kremlin issued a statement Tuesday, declaring Wednesday a day of mourning.

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The Investigative Committee's head, Aleksandr Bastrykin, told Putin that detectives believe the most likely cause of the fire was faulty electricity around the children's play area.

Apparently in an effort to address the protesters' demands for evidence of the official death tally, Kemerovo authorities have granted access to the morgue where the victims' bodies were taken.

Many others also questioned the official death toll but officials said the figures were final, urging Russians not to trust unconfirmed reports on social media. Numerous victims were children who died in a locked movie theatre after making desperate calls for help.

In an apparent attempt to deflect Putin's anger, Tuleyev blamed "the opposition" and "local busybodies" for fomenting the protest in Kemerovo. I identified them yesterday.

Putin promised a "transparent" investigation but declined to fire Aman Tuleyev, who has been governor of the Kemerovo region for the past 21 years.

Most of the mall's security staff "ran off" when the fire began, Bastrykin said.

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