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Russian Governor Who Resigned After Mall Fire Becomes Regional Parliament Speaker

Aman Tuleyev attends a meeting of the Council of People's Deputies in Kemerovo on April 10.
Aman Tuleyev attends a meeting of the Council of People's Deputies in Kemerovo on April 10.

Veteran Russian politician Aman Tuleyev has been elected as speaker of the Kemerovo regional legislature in Siberia, eight days after he resigned as governor following a shopping-mall fire that killed 64 people.

Tuleyev was elected speaker on April 10 by vote of 38-1 in the legislature, which like others across Russia is dominated by the Kremlin-controlled United Russia party.

Tuleyev, 73, had been governor of the coal-mining region in Siberia since 1997.

He resigned on April 1, saying it was "morally impossible" to stay on after the March 25 fire at the Zimnyaya Vishnya (Winter Cherry) mall in the regional capital -- one of the deadliest blazes in post-Soviet Russia.

Tuleyev had faced public calls to step down, including by people in a crowd of thousands who demonstrated outside his administration's office two days after the fire.

He and his subordinates were criticized over what many have seen as a callous response to the tragedy, including their characterizations of public outrage as the work of political opportunists.

Tuleyev received a parliamentary seat on April 3, two days after he resigned as governor.

His election as speaker came after the previous speaker resigned from the post and said Tuleyev deserved to replace him.

Residents, relatives of victims, and Russians nationwide blamed corruption and government negligence for the high casualty toll in blaze, whose victims included 41 children -- some of whom died after being trapped in a locked movie theater at the mall.

Investigators said initial investigations indicated that blocked fire exits, a shutdown alarm system, and "glaring violations" of safety rules exacerbated the human toll of the fire.

Seven people have 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.

With reporting by