Angry residents in Russia’s coal-producing region of Kemerovo have demanded the resignation of local authorities whom they blame for Sunday’s deadly shopping mall fire that killed at least 64 people.
Forty-one children were among the victims of the fire that swept through the upper floors of the Winter Cherry shopping center in Kemerovo on Sunday afternoon, Interfax cited a list compiled by victims’ families as saying on Tuesday. Investigators have said that the mall’s fire exits had been illegally blocked and the fire alarm system had not functioned properly.
An estimated 1,500 residents showed up at the steps of the Kemerovo region administration on Tuesday, calling for the resignation of the mayor and the regional government.
“We’re asking for the governor, we’re asking for Putin. Why are we being lied to?” the Tayga.info news website cited a woman as telling the crowd.
“We give the government their mandate. Let them resign,” she added.
Neither President Vladimir Putin, who visited survivors at the local hospital in the city earlier in the day, nor Kemerovo region governor Aman Tuleyev have showed up to address the crowd.
The crowd met the appearance of Kemerovo’s mayor, Ilya Serduk, with cries of “Resign!” and “Murders!”
“Why are the authorities’ pawns answering to us? Why are the queen and king safe and sound? Let them come here, get up and answer us,” a protester demanded.
Locals have questioned the official death toll announced by local authorities and claim that more than 400 people may have died in the fire.
“How many people actually died, why are you lying to us? Someone keeps parroting that it’s 64. Prove it! Release their names. What are we, idiots here?!” a protester said.