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The Real Russia. Today. Officials issue apologies and insults in Kemerovo, as Putin visits and weighs in

Source: Meduza

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

  • After deadly fire, Kemerovo's governor apologizes to Putin, while dismissing protesting “rabble-rousers”
  • On his knees, Kemerovo's lieutenant governor apologizes to victims' relatives
  • A woman describes how rescuers smiled as her family burned to death
  • Putin visits Kemerovo and speaks to survivors
  • A blogger uncovers evidence that anti-terrorism measures mean emergency exits at Russian schools stay locked
  • Pro-Kremlin bots rush to demobilize Internet anger over Kemerovo
  • Police prepare charges against suspects in Kemerovo's mall fire

Kemerovo's hierarchy of apology 🙏

After Sunday’s deadly fire in Kemerovo, which killed 64 people (including 41 children), the local governor apologized — to Vladimir Putin, who visited the city on Tuesday. Governor Aman Tuleev thanked the president for calling him on Sunday and apologized for failing to convey the full scope of the tragedy, which he says had not yet become apparent at that time.

Those troublemaking mourners

The governor also criticized a demonstration that took place outside his office on Tuesday, where locals and relatives of those killed in the fire demanded greater transparency from the authorities about the fire. Many also called for the resignations of top regional officials. Neither Putin nor Tuleev attended the rally. Several thousand people protested, though Governor Tuleev described the crowd as “maybe 200,” accusing “opposition forces” of trying to politicize a “human tragedy.” “These people aren’t relatives of the dead, it’s mainly just people who are always causing trouble. We’re working with them and telling them: ‘You can’t do this — it’s sacrilege when you try to use grief to solve your own problems,” Tuleev told the president. In an apparent effort to save face, the Kremlin’s official transcript of this meeting redacted the governor’s comments about “trouble makers.”

He fell to his knees

As Tuleev was sitting down with Putin, Kemerovo Lieutenant Governor Sergey Tsivilev met directly with the demonstrators outside the region’s administrative building and literally dropped to his knees, begging the crowd’s forgiveness for Sunday’s tragedy.

They grinned as they burned

Given a microphone, one woman described how she was at the shopping center and ran to the fourth floor, where children were trapped inside the movie theater. She says she met four firefighters, who refused to let her through. She says they pushed her back and told her that there were no more people trapped in the theater. To prove they were wrong, she says she put her phone on speaker, so they could hear her daughter, grandchildren, and daughter-in-law screaming for help. “Her last words were, ‘Mom, I love you. I’m dying,’” the woman told the crowd. The firefighters just stood there and “grinned,” the woman said.

Putin visits Kemerovo 🛬

After arriving in Kemerovo, President Putin visited a local hospital and spoke to several injured survivors. He also left flowers at a makeshift memorial to the victims of the fire. At the city’s forensic medicine building, Putin held a supposedly “unscheduled meeting with citizens,” where he encouraged the public not to believe rumors spreading online that the death toll in Sunday’s fire is actually greater than 64 people. Meanwhile, a group of victims’ relatives says it has collected evidence that 85 people are still unaccounted for.

“We talk about demography...”

Meeting with Governor Tuleev and with his local presidential plenipotentiary, Vladimir Putin observed a moment of silence in honor of those killed in the fire and said: “What is going on here? This isn’t war, or some unexpected methane explosion at a mine. People — children — came to a mall for entertainment. We talk about demography and we then lose so many people. Why? Because of criminal negligence and mismanagement. How could this have happened and what were the causes? Just look at the consequences.” Later in the day, Putin signed an executive order making Wednesday, March 28, a day of national mourning.

  • The president told reporters that it’s too soon to consider firing Tuleev, who’s served as governor in Kemerovo since 1997.

Why were the doors locked shut?

Meduza’s correspondent who traveled to Kemerovo learned from a man who lost three daughters in the fire that people were unable to exit a movie theater, finding that the emergency exit had been locked shut. On Tuesday, blogger Ilya Varlamov shared instructions from the Federal Security Service disseminated to every school and kindergarten in the country, where the FSB plainly tells these facilities to “close and seal” all emergency exits as an anti-terrorism security measure.

Kremlin bots to arms 👾

Internet users have noticed unusually large numbers of “dislikes” on videos related to Sunday’s deadly fire at the “Winter Cherry” shopping center in Kemerovo, recalling the orchestrated campaigns on YouTube against videos like those by Alexey Navalny that criticize or embarrass the government. Activists on social media have also discovered that many of the unkind comments left on videos from Kemerovo were written by so-called “Kremlin bots.”

Criminal charges for negligence and safety failures 👮‍♂️

Investigators say they plan to bring formal charges against five suspects in Sunday’s fire. Police have detained the technical director of the shopping center’s building owner, the tenant of the premises where the fire supposedly started, an employee and the director of the enterprise that serviced the mall’s fire alarm system, and a security guard who reportedly disabled the fire alarm, when it was first triggered on Sunday. The charges facing these individuals include negligent homicide, failure to obey fire safety requirements, and offering services that fail to meet safety standards.

Yours, Meduza

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