Russia: Protests against officials erupt in wake of Kemerovo fire

 

Russia: Protests against officials erupt in wake of Kemerovo fire

By
Clara Weiss

28 March 2018

The horrific fire at the Kemerovo “Winter Cherry” shopping mall and entertainment center on Sunday, March 25, has brought social and political tensions in Russia to a boiling point.

On Tuesday, March 27, several thousand people in Kemerovo protested in the city center, calling for the resignation of local authorities. Throughout the country, people are outraged over the obvious criminality that lay behind the total disregard of fire regulations at the mall, and the attempts by officials to cover-up the magnitude of the disaster.

The mall, which is co-owned by the billionaire Denis Shtengelov, had no functioning fire alarm and sprinkling system. Exits were blocked as fire and toxic smoke were filling the building. People had to evacuate on their own, with some jumping out of the windows to escape (see also: “At least 64 dead, including many children, in horrific shopping mall fire”).

The fire spread to over 1,000 square meters and was not extinguished for well over 12 hours. Not a single major local official appeared at the scene of the tragedy as it was evolving. Parents had to wait for over six hours before receiving any information from the police. Residents have also reported that the police seized phones from eyewitnesses trying to record footage and take pictures of the fire.

There has been an enormous outpouring of solidarity from local residents, with hundreds volunteering to donate blood, groceries or otherwise help the families of the victims.

The causes of the fire remain unclear. The TV channel Rossiya 24 reported the most likely cause was an electrical fault, as is the case in the majority of deadly fires in Russia. Five officials have been arrested,…

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