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Criminal Case Opened Over Deadly Mall Fire In Kemerovo


Residents, relatives of the victims, and Russians nationwide blamed corruption and government negligence for the high casualty toll in the blaze. (file photo)

Russian investigators have opened a criminal case against top officials at the Ministry of Emergency Situations branch in the Kemerovo region in connection with a shopping-mall fire that killed dozens of people in March.

Russia's Investigative Committee said on May 25 that the head of the ministry's regional branch, Aleksandr Mamontov; the head of its department of oversight, Grigory Terentyev; and other officials were suspected of negligence and embezzlement.

Mamontov has been detained and investigators plan to indict both him and Terentyev soon, the committee said in a statement.

According to the investigation, Mamontov and Terentyev did not conduct any review of the Zimnyaya Vishnya (Winter Cherry) mall's compliance with fire-safety requirements in 2017-18, although an inspection should have been carried out by March 18, 2018, it added.

“It has been established that Mamontov and other unidentified persons were involved in embezzling around 2 million rubles ($16,200) from the budget of the Emergency Situations Ministry's regional branch," the committee also said.

Russian officials say 60 people were killed on March 25 in the fire in the regional capital, also named Kemerovo, including many children. It was one of the deadliest blazes in the history of post-Soviet Russia.

Residents, relatives of the victims, and Russians nationwide blamed corruption and government negligence for the high casualty toll in the blaze.

Days after the fire, investigators said that blocked fire exits, an alarm system that was shut down, and "glaring violations" of safety rules before the blaze exacerbated its human toll.

Eight people have already been arrested in the case, including the head of the local building-inspection agency and an executive with the firm that owns the shopping mall.

Longtime Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev stepped down on April 1, following demands by residents for his resignation, but became speaker of the regional parliament.

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