Protesters Call For Full Investigation Into Russian Mall Fire

Russian demonstrators calls for investigation into shopping mall fire that killed at least 64 people

Funerals began in Russian Federation on Wednesday for the 64 people, majority children, whose deaths in a fire at a Siberian shopping mall have roused public anger over official corruption and incompetence.

PRESIDENT Vladimir Putin flew to the scene of a deadly shopping mall fire in Siberia that killed 64 people, and promised angry residents yesterday that those responsible for what he called criminal negligence would be harshly punished.

Investigators said the victims were burned alive or suffocated because emergency exits were locked, notably in a cinema where children watched cartoons. Some of the protesters believe that the death toll announced by officials is not accurate.

"Those workers who were supposed to be in charge of safety, organising evacuation, they were the first to flee", he told Putin.

The regional administration, led by Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev, has come under fierce public pressure over the tragedy and its response. Victims included children trapped in a cinema.

Crowds chanted "Resign", "The truth!" and "Shame!" to drown out officials' remarks.

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Opposition leader Alexei Navalny called on people to attend a protest event later on Tuesday in Moscow.

Rallies in memory of the victims were held in several cities around Russian Federation, and at least one, in Moscow, turned into an anti-government demonstration. "These ruling powers killed them", said 26-year-old Varvara Mikhailova.

Russian state television on Tuesday showed footage from inside the charred movie theatre, where the roof had entirely collapsed. The unnamed man, who worked for a private security firm, may be detained as a suspect in the criminal case, Petrenko said.

None of the signs and automatic mechanisms to put out the fire worked when it broke out, said the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

Russian police arrested at least four persons, among them a security guard who, according to press reports, disconnected the alert system when the fire started in the center Znezhnaya Bishnia (Winter Cherry), where there were about a thousand people. "You deserved a happy, joyful life", she wrote.

Tass quoted Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov as saying 16 people are still reported to be missing. She said one of her employees said flames first erupted in the children's game room, quickly engulfing the rubber foam gear.

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