Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Siberian Federal District Sergei Menyailo and Kemerovo Region Governor Aman Tuleyev also attended the meeting.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: On March 25, a terrible tragedy happened here in Kemerovo claiming the lives of dozens of people. Before we begin our work, I want to say that the entire country is mourning together with you, with Kemerovo residents. I would like to convey my deepest and most sincere condolences to the families of those killed. Let us honour their memory with a moment of silence.
Moment of silence.
What is going on here? It is not a war, not an unexpected methane explosion at a mine. People, children came to a mall for entertainment. We talk about demography and now we have lost 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.
Let us begin with the Emergencies Ministry. The Investigative Committee will later tell me how permits had been issued. How were the rescue efforts organised and what is being done now to help the victims? Mr Puchkov, please.
Civil Defence, Emergencies and Disaster Relief Minister Vladimir Puchkov: Mr President, colleagues,
At 4.04 pm on March 25, a deadly fire broke out at the Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping mall in Kemerovo. The roof and the floors of the third and fourth floors collapsed, and the fire covered up to 1,600 square metres in just minutes. Within seven minutes, firefighting units arrived at the site, as well as ambulances and the police, who immediately started providing assistance to people. Twenty people were brought down from the upper floors with the use of firefighting equipment; over 700 people were evacuated from the shopping mall.
The task force was promptly built up with a Kemerovo Region mine rescue unit and all the units of the garrison and the city of Kemerovo and adjacent areas. These units organised the fire extinguishing and initial search and rescue measures.
This task force was reinforced at the first stage with special units from the regional search and rescue detachment from Krasnoyarsk, which has been certified under the guidelines of the UN International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG). We also deployed the Centrospas unit form Moscow and a respective unit from the Novosibirsk and Tomsk regions.
The work was organised in four sections. We simultaneously conducted search and rescue and fire extinguishing measures because in some areas the temperature reached 600 degrees, there was heavy smoke, the structures were unstable and there was practically zero visibility.
Vladimir Putin: When was it built?
Vladimir Puchkov: The building was erected in 1968; it was rebuilt a number of times, adjusted for the needs of the retail and entertainment centre. It was registered as a small business but it conducted a broad range of retail trade activities, it had three cinemas, a swimming pool, special sections for children, and a number of other facilities.
Mr President, at the second stage of the operation the task force launched and organised work in six sections.
Vladimir Putin: Did the city administration issue permits for all those activities?
Vladimir Puchkov: All the registration documents were issued here, in the city of Kemerovo.
Vladimir Putin: That is, by the city administration.
Vladimir Puchkov: The city administration.
Vladimir Putin: And where is the Mayor? Why wasn’t the Mayor invited? Where is the Mayor?
Vladimir Puchkov: The respective services are now resolving this issue.
In 2016, an Emergencies Ministry commission arrived to inspect the premises. Documents were presented indicating that it is a small business with the annual turnover of 68 million rubles. The number of people employed was under 100. Also, recommendations were given that were not followed on, unfortunately.
Vladimir Putin: When were the recommendations issued?
Vladimir Puchkov: In 2016.
Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Siberian Federal District Sergei Menyailo: The building was put into operation in 2013 as a retail and entertainment complex.
Vladimir Puchkov: After the latest reconstruction conducted.
Mr President, assistance was rendered to 129 people during the search and rescue operation. Unfortunately, 64 people died. By now we have recovered 58 bodies and keep searching for six persons who according to their relatives’, could have been in the shopping mall.
Our priority is to render targeted help to all the families of the victims. Yesterday the Government of the Russian Federation made a decision, the Government signed an order allocating 76 million rubles. Each victim’s family will get 1 million rubles, the people who sustained minor injuries will get 200,000 rubles, and those with medium or grave injuries will get 400,000 rubles.
At present the task force comprises a total of 800 personnel, 195 units of equipment. All fire and rescue units are in action.
Vladimir Putin: What is the use of working now? The people are dead. Sixty-four people.
Vladimir Puchkov: Mr President, we must find six people.
Vladimir Putin: Certainly, the search operation must go on.
Please go ahead.
Investigative Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin: Mr President, this is what we have managed to discover in the past 24 hours.
In 2013 this was the Kemerovo Confectionery Factory, which, according to recent reports, contrary to regulations was transformed into Zimnyaya Vishnya company, a shopping mall. The main sponsors of the newly registered legal entity are Denis Shtengelov with a 78 percent stake, who resides primarily in Australia, and Igor Semenov with a 17 percent stake. The centre’s manager is Ms Suddenok, who leases the premises.
We have seized a huge number of documents in the past 24 hours, which need to be thoroughly analysed. But I would like to stress that it is not really a small business. This complex, the shopping mall, has 27 lessees and about as many owners. That is, it is a whole conglomerate, a holding created with the goal of making a profit.
Vladimir Putin: That is natural. But this is not the issue. The issue is how work was arranged to ensure safety.
Alexander Bastrykin: Answering this question, I can say that we have detained five people (most of them are managers). These are Mr Sobolev, CTO of the owner company Kemerovo Confectionery Combine, he was responsible for fire safety. Mr Polozinenko, CEO of Sistemny Integrator, this company was charged with the maintenance of fire alarms in the shopping mall. The fire alarm has not worked since March 19, but they did not do anything to fix it.
Vladimir Putin: Wait. Why didn’t it work?
Alexander Bastrykin: For technical reasons. It turned off on March 19 and nobody tried to determine why since then. It was simply out of order and nobody fixed it.
Vladimir Putin: So, they knew that the fire alarm was not working and they did nothing?
Alexander Bastrykin: That is correct, although the company that was supposed to maintain it specialises in fire safety. The fire alarm has been out of order since March 19. But the worst thing is that there was an alarm button at the security post, and the security guard (we detained him too), his name is Antyushin, did not press it. The fire alarm was out of order, but the panic button was working and he did not press it for some reason.
Vladimir Putin: Hedid not press it when the fire started?
Alexander Bastrykin: That is correct. We cannot give a reasonable explanation for this. He cannot explain it, this security guard. He also works for a licensed company, but he himself is not trained at all. So, the security system in general, despite all the funding and specialised companies engaged in maintaining it, was totally neglected and did not function. In addition, we found out that many doors to the spaces with young people on the fourth floor with games rooms and three cinema halls, these doors were closed – locked.
Vladimir Putin: Why?
Alexander Bastrykin: We are investigating this now. One of the versions is that it was done to prevent young people without tickets from entering the cinema. They locked the doors until the end of the movie, and nobody entered or left after that.
The fire started at the children’s playground on the fourth floor. Experts are currently working there. They have two versions: it was either a spontaneous combustion due to an electrical wiring fault, or, which is less likely, the use of open flame. We have launched an electrotechnical, construction and engineering expertise. It will be held in St Petersburg at agencies that specialise in fire safety, and we will find the cause of this tragedy.
The last thing to be mentioned today is that we did not have such things before. In this case parents left their children for a long time in the game room. A school teacher left an entire class there and went to attend to her business.
When we watched the tapes (we can give you the photos and videotapes), we saw that unfortunately, this is common among parents and school staff who are responsible for children’s lives. They forget about their responsibilities and go to our shopping malls to shop while children remain under the supervision of some unknown people in unknown conditions.
Vladimir Putin: It is fine given the necessary safety measures.
Alexander Bastrykin: Yes.
Vladimir Putin: There is nothing wrong with the people who came to shop and left their kids in a safe place given the necessary security measures are taken.
Alexander Bastrykin: Mr President, wecannot find the people who were in that room where the fire broke out, who represented the mall administration. Why did the personnel lock the doors? Who was there?
I would like to note that most of the staff ran away, leaving the children and their parents; those who were responsible for safety and the evacuation – they ran away. Almost all of the mall staff survived. You are absolutely right in saying: given the necessary safety measures. Here, we see the opposite. The goal was to let 50 tenants and owners do their business, while all the other things were forgotten and neglected.
Vladimir Putin: Look here, it is imperative to get to the bottom of this properly.
As to the owners, they should definitely turn up and take part in all that work. However, the owners just lease their properties and that is all, whereas it is the responsibility of the authorities to monitor how the work is organised and to make sure it is at the right level, this is the point. As to the owner, he just leased his property and that is it. However, the state authorities, the city authorities in this case, must first of all ensure the necessary safety level.
Alexander Bastrykin: We will certainly identify the government body that authorised, permitted all that. But I have just a list of lessees, the ones that we found, they are 27 organisations of different profiles, and in fact, nobody monitored them, how they trade, how they protect all that, how they ensured safety and so on. We will sort it out, starting with the city administration that issued a permit in 2013 on transforming that confectionery factory into a shopping mall. Apparently, this was done with gross violations, including of construction norms. We will stage a construction expertise and get to the bottom of this.
Vladimir Putin: Did your agency check on them? Or just two years ago and that was it?
Vladimir Puchkov: Mr President of the Russian Federation, taking into account that there were 27 enterprises, all of them were small businesses that were given tax holidays.
Vladimir Putin: So what? What does tax holiday have to do with that? Tax issues are tax issues whereas safety issues have nothing to do with taxes, right?
Vladimir Puchkov: The are also holidays with regard to the control and oversight of small and medium-sized businesses, Mr President of the Russian Federation.
Vladimir Putin: Listen, it has nothing to do with safety and security issues. What do holidays have to do with that? You are talking about tax holidays and ensuring security, these are different matters.
When they name the number of victims, the first feeling one gets is not to cry but to howl. And the things being said here evoke quite different emotions, I will be honest with you.
What is being done by the Healthcare Ministry?
Healthcare Minister Veronika Skvortsova: Mr President, since day one about 70 patients have been received, and over 50 of them received outpatient assistance. Their condition was not grave, and they were released and are currently under outpatient monitoring.
Fifteen people remain in hospital; 13 of them have toxic combustion gases and carbon monoxide poisoning with medium severity and minor injuries. As of today, their condition is relatively satisfactory with good progress. Two of them lost their children in this tragedy and experience an acute stress reaction. Psychiatrists and psychotherapists from the Serbsky Federal Medical Research Centre for Psychiatry and Narcology are working with them.
Two of the patients with the gravest condition have combined injuries due to falling from the fourth floor.
The most severe case is that of an 11-year-old boy who has pulmonitis, pulmonary contusion and pelvic bone fractures. He was in a medically induced coma with artificial lung ventilation. Over the past day and a half his condition has improved and he is now in a stable condition, his cerebral oedema and pleural oedema have regressed. Today another multidisciplinary team meeting of leading specialists will be held, including a paediatric anaesthesiologist and a paediatric toxicologist. We plan to let him breathe himself today. Everything is proceeding now along a positive scenario, thank God.
Also there is an 18-year-old man with a head injury, traumatic brain contusion, facial bone fractures and a chest contusion. His condition has improved significantly and is now relatively satisfactory. The treatment is ongoing. Generally, he shows positive dynamics.
Concurrently, a crisis centre was set up to help the families. Yesterday and last night alone 69 family members were received with acute stress reactions, hypertonic crisis, and decompensation of ischemic heart disease. A special team of medics and therapists is working with all the victims’ families.
Starting yesterday, forensic experts have been actively engaged. Today, the management of the Russian Centre of Forensic Medical Expertise has arrived and DNA testing began on the bodies that cannot be identified.
Now about the measures we are taking regarding the families. We are doing everything the way you instructed in the Raspadskaya mine case [a severe accident with a large number of casualties occurred at Raspadskaya mine in 2010].
First, each family has already been given assistance (apart from the Government) of one million rubles. Accounts were opened but that is not the point. Over 20 years have passed since my son’s death but the pain is still there. Time must pass. And not so little time that the families will be forgotten after 40 days. We will draft a programme for each family, as you taught us to do in the Raspadskaya mine case. You did all that personally. And families with children will receive assistance until the children are eighteen years old. Each family separately. I give you a firm promise on that.
Next. We already began meetings with the families. I will meet with each family in person, but for now I will see those who are in a good condition, as you used to do. So now I will meet with the people who are in a good condition, and the others will follow incrementally. I will meet with all of them without exception. Some issues are already being settled on debts, on loans – on small matters. These are minor matters but they are everyday problems that people have to deal with. Each family will have a personal doctor, a psychologist, a social worker, and they are professionals with extensive experience.
I promise you that everything possible will be done here. Consider it done. My task is to make sure such things do not happen, to stop these carrion crows trying to speculate on other’s grief and to achieve some murky goals.
Mr President, the tragedy is immense but the experience we gained thanks to you at the Raspadskaya mine is being used to the full.
Vladimir Putin: We must do everything to help the people.
Aman Tuleyev: We will. Mr President, I promise you this personally. I have never let you down and as you remember I always did what I said. Yes, the grief is enormous, I understand and I take it very personally. I will do everything, I will.