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Days After Resigning Over Deadly Fire, Russia's Tuleyev Gets Legislative Seat

Former Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev (file photo)
Former Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev (file photo)

Just two days after he resigned as Kemerovo governor, citing an unbearable "moral" burden following a shopping-mall fire that killed 64 people, veteran politician Aman Tuleyev has been handed a seat in the Russian region's legislature.

The regional electoral commission decided to give Tuleyev a mandate at a meeting on April 3, the newspaper Kommersant cited commission secretary Mikhail Pimenov as saying.

Other Russian media also reported the decision, and some cited unnamed sources close to the regional government as saying that Tuleyev will be elected speaker of the legislature next week. There was no official comment on those reports.

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 Zimyaya Vishnya (Winter Cherry) mall.

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

On April 1, the Kremlin and the Kemerovo regional administration said that Tuleyev had tendered his resignation to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

While the officials said Tuleyev was leaving the post "at his own request," his resignation was widely seen as having been orchestrated by the Kremlin to limit the political fallout from one of post-Soviet Russia's deadliest fires.

Visitig Kemerovo two days after the fire, Putin had blamed "criminal negligence" and "carelessness" for the disaster and promised that the "guilty will be punished."

In a video address, Tuleyev said his resignation was "the only right choice" after the fire, adding: "With such a heavy burden, it's impossible to work as the governor. Morally impossible."

On the same day, the Kremlin said Putin accepted Tuleyev’s resignation and appointed Deputy Governor Sergei Tsivilyov as acting head of the region 3,000 km east of Moscow.

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.

Relatives of victims have filed official complaints with prosecutors alleging that "inaction" by fire crews and others contributed to the death toll.

Investigators said initial investigations indicated that blocked fire exits, a shut-down 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 RFE/RL's Russian Service, Kommersant, TASS, and Interfax
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