The group of activists includes family members of those killed and injured in the fire who do not trust the official data regarding the number of victims. The meeting took place in a forensic medical office where the activists arrived to compare lists of victims against the official records.
The meeting was also attended by Kemerovo Mayor Ilya Seredyuk.
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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: (To Ilya Seredyuk.) How long have you been mayor?
Kemerovo Mayor Ilya Seredyuk: Since 2016, or two years as mayor. Before that, I was deputy mayor for six years.
Vladimir Putin: How come you issued the permit?
Ilya Seredyuk: <…> I was head of a municipality and then returned to the city. During that period, in 2014 the permit was issued for commissioning the section where the tragedy happened.
Vladimir Putin: Nothing was checked for two years.
Remark: My question too, do you carry out checks at all?
Vladimir Putin: There were no inspections for two years.
Ilya Seredyuk: Mr President, there was an inspection.
Vladimir Putin: When? In 2016?
Ilya Seredyuk: The State Fire Inspection issued instructions.
Vladimir Putin: In 2016. Now is 2018.
Ilya Seredyuk: Instructions were given and then the building was sold.
Vladimir Putin: Selling has nothing to do with it. Safety must be ensured. Sold or not sold, what does it matter? Safety must always be ensured, right? What difference does it make who the owner is? Services must operate properly to provide security. Where are these services?
Remark: Mr President, if I may. It looks like even before the fire it was difficult to exit the building. There were narrow passageways and few windows. People basically got trapped.
Vladimir Putin: I have just been to the hospital where I spoke to a firefighter who was rescuing people. He told me the same thing. These buildings simply shouldn’t… Even a person doing a firefighting job ended up in hospital after breathing in too much carbon monoxide.
Remark: Of course, it is an outrageous tragedy.
Vladimir Putin: Moreover, it turns out the doors were locked.
Remark: Yes, we would like to hear comments on that as well. Those locked doors, what was that? A measure against people coming in without tickets? What if a person just wants to go to the WC? They locked up children while the children were drinking Coca Cola or something else in the cinema. They were there just for fun. The whole idea is outrageous even if there had been no fire. With the fire, I do not even want to start. It was like a gas chamber, a very similar situation because people suffocated.
Vladimir Putin: An investigative team of 100 people is working here. They will look at every link in the chain, from those who issued permits to those responsible for monitoring safety and security, the private security companies whose staff were there and did not push the panic button in time, and so on and forth. They will follow the chain starting from the re-registration of the building and the permit that allowed a factory to be turned into an entertainment centre, to those who permitted those materials to be used in a facility of this purpose. This is a disgrace, no doubt about it.
Remark: Can we have your word that the investigation will be strictly under control and we will find out the truth?
Vladimir Putin: Do not even doubt it.
Remark: And that it will be as transparent as possible?
Vladimir Putin: Rest assured.
Remark: And those guilty will be punished?
Vladimir Putin: There’s no need to doubt that.
Remark: The people want them to be brought to justice.
Vladimir Putin: That will be so.
Let us not jump to any conclusions right now or point fingers. These 100 investigators are working on every aspect of the incident, you can rest assured.
Remark: Will it be a full investigation?
Vladimir Putin: A full investigation, absolutely.
The point is there are many such facilities across the country. The Emergencies Ministry has now begun to do something about it and to find things out. There are hundreds of centres like that one.
Remark: Look at Laplandiya, it is falling apart.
Vladimir Putin: Is there another mall here?
Remark: Yes. There used to be a stadium and a sports centre with a leaking roof. It was sold. They dug out a foundation pit and created basement premises there.
Vladimir Putin: How come combustible materials were allowed to be used? This is stated in the investigators’ first reports. How did this happen?
Remark: Mr President, you understand that there are people who sign these documents.
Vladimir Putin: Exactly. This is what I am talking about.
Vladimir Putin: The temperature was 600˚C degrees.
Remark: It did not just happen. The building had conditions for that.
Vladimir Putin: I have just said that combustible materials were used that are prohibited in spaces intended for large numbers of people.
Remark: You see, social media is creating a horror story.
Remark: Yes, therefore we need information. Rumours are starting to spread because of lack of information.
Vladimir Putin: You know it very well that social media is a murky source, unfortunately. We need to rely on the results of the actual inquiry.
Remark: You see, many people do not trust the authorities these days.
Vladimir Putin: Listen, a group came from Moscow. The Chairman of the Investigative Committee is here.
Vladimir Putin: Quality is the most important thing. Without appropriate quality no permits can be issued. This is my point.
Remark: The usher’s work is to stand and supervise, not to lock the doors and leave.
Remark: She should have stayed inside to open the door if anybody needed to go to the bathroom.
Remark: Will this person who locked the doors be identified and held accountable? Because people were making calls on their phones. Those calls were horrible.
Remark: The person who locked the emergency exits.
Vladimir Putin: Listen, what is there to discuss. Children. I have no words.
Remark: As far as I understand, there was violation after violation. Down to the fire alarm being out of order. There was no light. The people did not know where to run in the dark.
Remark: The staff did not know what to do.
Vladimir Putin: The fire alarm did not go off but it could have been turned on manually, which was never done.
Remark: Thank you to those people, fitness instructors, who led everybody out of the gym. They had a clear understanding of how to act in the situation.
Remark: There was no security staff there, nobody.
Remark: The mall staff did not help in any way. They were the first to run stomping over people’s heads.
Vladimir Putin: There is a member of staff in hospital who risked his life to save others. <…> People just did not know where to go.
Remark: We were told yesterday that those who cannot be identified may be reported missing. I hope it will not happen.
Vladimir Putin: DNA testing will make identification possible.
Remark: I mean there should not be cases when someone went there, left his car by the cinema and died in the fire but later it will be reported that he, say, went for a walk in the woods.
Vladimir Putin: DNA testing is necessary here.
Remark: May I ask a question? In the wake of this tragedy, my question is, will Tuleyev keep his post?
Vladimir Putin: Tuleyev is not the mayor.
Remark: I understand he is not the mayor. But you are well aware that…
Remark: Everything that happens in the region can be traced back to him.
Vladimir Putin: I understand.
Remark: Mr President, the people do not want him as governor.
Remark: He is the problem.
By the way, the mayor is doing his job. Although he failed this time.
Remark: He is the only person who met with us, who had the guts to meet with the public.
Remark: He is a true citizen.
Vladimir Putin: What is your name?
Vladimir Putin: Kostya, you see, a terrible tragedy happened, terrible. To make decisions of this kind… First, one should not make them on camera, for the sake of dramatic effect in the wake of a tragedy. This is the first point. Second, we must find out for certain who is to blame and for what. Once we succeed – and we will succeed – decisions will be taken.
Remark: Regardless of status?
Vladimir Putin: Absolutely. Status does not matter when it comes to loss of life. We lost so many children. We talk about demography, encouraging people to have more children but look how many kids we lost as a result of this incident.
Remark: Thank you for coming here to support us.