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Eight People Handed Lengthy Prison Terms Over Deadly Siberian Mall Fire


A firefighter looks out from inside the fire-gutted shopping mall in Kemerovo, March 29, 2018

KEMEROVO, Russia -- A court in Siberia has sentenced eight people to prison terms ranging from five years to 14 years in prison for negligence in a 2018 fire in the city of Kemerovo that killed 60 people, including 37 children.

The Zavodskoi district court in the city of Kemerovo on October 29 handed the longest sentence, 14 years in prison, to Yulia Bogdanova, the former director of a company that owned the Zimnyaya Vishnya (Winter Cherry) mall ravaged by the March 2018 blaze, one of the deadliest in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

All of the defendants were found guilty of violating fire safety rules and negligence that led to human loss of life.

Former mall manager Nadezhda Suddenok was sentenced to 13 1/2 years, while the mall's former technical director, Georgy Sobolev, was given 11 years in prison.

The mall's former security officer, Sergei Antyushin, was handed 8-year prison term.

Igor Polozinenko, the chief of a company that installed a fire alarm system in the mall, and his assistant, Aleksandr Nikitin, were sentenced to 6 1/2 and 5 1/2 years in prison, respectively.

Andrei Bursin and Sergei Genin, the individuals who led firefighting operations at the blaze, were sentenced to six and five years in prison, respectively.

The judge said he take into consideration time already spent in pretrail detention before November 8 when he will release the final amounts of prison time the convicted officials will have to spend behind bars.

Bogdanova, Suddenok, and Sobolev pleaded partially guilty to the charges, while the others entered not guilty pleas.

The fire was the one in a series of disasters caused by or exacerbated by the corrosively deadly effects of negligence, carelessness, corruption, corner-cutting, and crumbling infrastructure among officials.

Residents, relatives of the victims, and Russians nationwide blamed corruption and government negligence for the high number of casualties.

Days after the fire, investigators said that blocked fire exits, an alarm system that was turned off, and "glaring violations" of safety rules before the blaze started led to the high death toll.

A total of 16 people, including leaders of the regional Emergency Ministry and officials who had approved the mall's operations, have been charged with crimes that investigators say led to or aggravated the tragedy.

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