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'A Whopping Day's Salary': Russian Governor's Donation To Fire Victims Triggers Scorn

Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev gives a briefing on March 26 about the shopping center fire.
Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev gives a briefing on March 26 about the shopping center fire.

The administration of the Siberian region where a shopping-mall fire killed 64 people, including dozens of children, announced that the governor had donated one day's salary to a victims' fund -- triggering angry social-media responses over what many called an insulting pittance.

A press release by the Kemerovo regional administration said on March 29 that Governor Aman Tuleyev and his deputies had each contributed one day's salary to a fund set up to help the families of those who died in the March 25 fire at the Zimnyaya Vishnya (Winter Cherry) shopping center.

Based on Tuleyev's most recent income declaration, one day's salary would total around $100.

Tuleyev and his subordinates have faced fierce public criticism for what many see as a cold and tone-deaf response to the tragedy, including their characterizations of public outrage as the work of political opportunists.

The announcement by his office of the donation drew rebukes as well after it was reported by several local and national Russian media outlets on March 29.

Tuleyev's official salary in 2016 was just under 2.1 million rubles ($36,500), according to his most recent declaration. Based on that figure, one day's salary for Tuleyev would be around 5,700 rubles ($100).

The regional government's website listed 14 deputy governors as of March 29.

"A soulless beast!" one Twitter user said after the Russian newspaper RBK tweeted out its report on the donations by Tuleyev and his deputies.

“A whopping day's salary,” one Kemerovo man wrote sarcastically on Facebook.

The text of the press release disappeared from the Kemerovo government's official website for several hours after the donations were reported by local and federal media.

After the announcement vanished from the site, a spokeswoman for the regional administration, Svetlana Kharitonova, told RFE/RL by telephone that she did not know anything about the press release and suggested calling back the following day.

A slightly longer version of the press release reappeared on the regional government's website later on March 29.

Schoolteacher Tatiana Darsalia was one of the 64 people who perished in the fire.
Schoolteacher Tatiana Darsalia was one of the 64 people who perished in the fire.

Tuleyev has served as the governor of Kemerovo since 1997. In a March 27 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the deadly fire, he said there were only around 200 people at a recent demonstration in Kemerovo when, in fact, thousands had shown up. Tuleyev also told Putin that "troublemakers" and "opposition forces" were attempting to stoke unrest for political gain.

Tuleyev earned a total of 5.42 million rubles ($94,000) in 2016, according to his most recent declaration. That figure includes his official salary as well as his pension, interest from bank deposits, and award money that he says he donates to students and needy families.

The press release about the donations said that a total of 24.3 million rubles ($421,647) had been collected from a range of citizens, organizations, and companies throughout Russia and abroad.

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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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