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Russian Governor Who Resigned After Mall Fire May Head Regional Parliament

Kemerovo region Governor Aman Tuleyev gives a briefing following a fire at the Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping center on March 26.

A week after he resigned as Kemerovo governor, citing an unbearable "moral" burden following a shopping-mall fire that killed 64 people, veteran Russian politician Aman Tuleyev is expected to be elected as speaker of the regional legislature.

The chairman of the Kemerovo regional council of deputies, Aleksei Sinitsyn, stepped down on April 9 and said that Tuleyev deserved to replace him.

Sinitsyn said that the lawmakers in the council were "Tuleyev's team" and added, "I think it is absolutely fair that the team leader runs it."

The council's press service said that the new speaker will be elected on April 10.

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

Tuleyev, who is 73 and had been governor of the coal-mining region in Siberia since 1997, had faced calls to resign in the wake of the March 25 fire at the Zimnyaya Vishnya (Winter Cherry) mall.

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.

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 TASS and RIA Novosti