Russia convulsed with grief as the funerals of children and teachers who died in the Kemerovo fire began in the industrial city in Siberia. Protests continued to spread across the country on Tuesday, with makeshift memorials appearing around the Russian Federation.
Russia President Vladimir Putin visited the region in a bid to confront criticism spreading on social media that the Kremlin did not care about the people.
“The authorities were late in announcing mourning,” political analyst Abbas Gallyamov told Vedomosti business daily. “Possibly they didn’t want to spoil the positive mood after the elections and there was hope that the tragedy would not turn out to be so large-scale,” reported AFP.
The Kremlin began a belated effort to acknowledge the disaster, and always looking to blame the ‘enemy’, blamed the West for attempting to make the situation worse by expelling Russian diplomats simultaneously as were children being buried.
The region’s deputy governor, meanwhile, told the crowd of his service in the Soviet Navy and his business accomplishments, while suggesting a man who lost his wife and three children in the fire of using the tragedy to “hype” himself, reported RFERL.
“Young man, are you trying to use this tragedy to hype yourself?” Tsivilyov said, to which Vostrikov replied: “My entire family died.”
Relations between Russian officials and the people in a nutshell: deputy governor in Kemerovo, where 64 died in a mall fire, accuses man who lost his entire family of "self-promoting through the tragedy"pic.twitter.com/9CQbjjMXKU
— max seddon (@maxseddon) March 27, 2018
Many Russian changed their Facebook profiles to blackness to show solidarity with the families of the victims. The tradgedy has ignited interest in corruption in Russia which citizens are saying allowed shortcuts in the construction and fire prevention, alarm systems that enabled the fire to spread and resulted in so many deaths. 76 were reported officially at last count with 41 children. Many Russians do not believe the official numbers, saying in reality the figure is much higher.
“Resignation!” “Tell us the truth!” “Corruption!” the crowd chanted Tuesday at officials in the administrative buildings of Kemerovo. “Her last words were: ‘Mum, I love you, I’m dying,'” said a woman in a video who told the crowd she lost her daughter, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren in the fire. “Murderers!” the crowd chanted as she finished her story, reported Al Jazeera.
President Putin signed a decree declaring a national day of mourning on March 28th, with flags flown at half mast.