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Brothers' Drownings The Last Straw For Residents Of Siberian Town

An impromptu memorial to two boys in Kolyvan who drowned after falling into a two-meter-wide trench.
An impromptu memorial to two boys in Kolyvan who drowned after falling into a two-meter-wide trench.

KOLYVAN, Russia -- Simmering public anger over the governance of this small Siberian town reached a boiling point this week after two young brothers drowned in a trench allegedly left uncovered for months.

The two boys, aged 6 and 11, died on February 2 after falling into the 2-meter-wide trench, which locals say was dug so town workers could carry out repairs on water pipes. The same trench, locals say, claimed another victim this autumn when a man fell in and died.

On February 5, several hundred protesters assembled in Kolyvan, which has a population of 12,500 and is located approximately 45 kilometers north of Novosibirsk, to vent their anger.

"We went several times to the administration and asked them to fill in [the hole]. To which they replied:'If you need to, why don't you go get spades and fill it in yourselves,'" participant Yevgenya Svarovskaya told RFE/RL.

The protesters demanded the resignation of the man they find ultimately responsible -- Viktor Averin, the head of the town's administration.

YouTube footage posted on February 5 showed an unidentified official appearing with a microphone before the protesting crowd. It began heckling him as he called on them not to "capitalize on the tragedy." As he continued, the crowd of a few hundred began chanting in unison for him to step down. ​

Ultimately Kolyvan's mayor, Alkesei Dorofeyev, offered his resignation.

"The people come to them [the administration] and they have one thing to offer: cursing, and 'get out of here'," resident Ivan Konyshev told Siberia.Reality, a regional news outlet of RFE/RL's Russian Service. "They don't want to hold any conversations with the people. They'll find a fall guy, make him take the blame for everything, but for the head [of the administration] everything will be golden."

Local residents said the death of the two children was the last straw. They list numerous gripes with local authorities: poor roads, bad street lighting, problems with utilities. One person at the rally held a sign reading: "Punish those guilty of killing children."

"We've got a hole on our street just like it," said Lyudmila Kuznetsova, a resident of Kolyvan. "It will have been there a year in May. It's covered by snow. No one climbs up mounds of snow, but what about children? There are a whole bunch of holes like this. No one is keeping an eye on it."

"The streets aren't cleaned properly. The water pipes are in bad shape. The lighting is bad," Aleksandr Ivanov said, adding that, if the tragedy had not occurred, these types of things would have gone unnoticed.

Written by Tom Balmforth in Moscow based on reporting in Kolyvan by Siberia.Reality, a regional news outlet of RFE/RL's Russian Service.

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