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Russian Regional Government Resigns Over Deadly Fire

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin lays flowers outside the destroyed nightclub in Perm.
A fire that killed 124 people at a Russian nightclub last week claimed its first political casualties when the Perm regional government resigned.

The announcement came in a brief statement today from the governor's office.

Perm's regional government, it said, had decided to resign in connection with "the tragic events of December 5."

The blaze at the "Lame Horse" nightclub was the deadliest in Russia in decades.

Sparked by an indoor fireworks show, the fire caused a stampede for the exit as clubbers rushed to escape the smoke.

One hundred and twenty-four people are now known to have died, and a similar number are still in hospital, many of them with severe burns.

The dead so far include one of the club's owners, Aleksandr Titlyanov, whom police had reportedly named earlier as a suspect in their investigation.

Several officials from the regional inspections agency have already been suspended and four people arrested and charged because of the fire.

But resignations like today's are unusual in Russia, where it's rare for officials to take responsibility for deadly disasters and step down.

They came one day after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the city and subjected local officials to a very public rebuke, saying fire safety regulations had not been enforced.

The resignations were welcomed by Olga Kolokolova, chair of the regional branch of the liberal Yabloko party in Perm.

"Of course, it was right for [regional] government members to resign, or rather for the governor to sack them," told RFE/RL's Russian Service. "I hope [other officials] learn lessons from this and understand that they bear personal responsibility."

Most of Perm's regional government will remain in place in an acting position, until a new government is named once the investigation into the fire is completed -- though three regional ministers have been sacked, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Regional Communist Party leader Vladimir Korsun said a shake-up was precisely what was required after the Lame Horse tragedy.

"[The government] needs a total shake-up," Korsun said. "If it goes on like that, the whole of Perm Krai could be called 'lame.'"

With most members continuing in an acting capacity for now, and the investigation still ongoing, it's unclear when Perm's regional government will see substantial changes.

That could make the collective resignation more of a symbolic gesture -- and far from a new precedent in a country where, all too often, fire inspections are seen more as a way to raise bribes than to enforce safety.

based on RFE/RL Russian Service and agency reports