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Cablegate: Political Reprecussions Follow Perm Restaurant Fire

VZCZCXRO9950
RR RUEHDBU RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK
DE RUEHYG #0084 3520838
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 180838Z DEC 09
FM AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1399
INFO RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 1043
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEHLN/AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG 0622
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 0632
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 1437

UNCLAS YEKATERINBURG 000084

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT OF EUR/RUS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PGOV RS
SUBJECT: POLITICAL REPRECUSSIONS FOLLOW PERM RESTAURANT FIRE

Sensitive but Unclassified. Not for Internet Distribution.

1. (SBU) The tragic fire at the popular Lame Horse
restaurant/club in Perm that claimed 149 lives on December 5 has
had political repercussions that are still unspooling as the
investigation into the incident continues. According to our
contacts in the Perm city administration, the city is still in
mourning, and Perm Krai Governor Chirkunov has cancelled all
public events.

2. (SBU) Prime Minister Putin visited Perm on December 8 and
took the regional government to task. The next day, all
ministers submitted their resignations and will be serving in an
acting capacity until the investigation is concluded. Three
regional ministers were dismissed outright: Minister of Public
Security Igor Orlov; Minister of Infrastructure and City
Development Aleksander Kudryavtsev; Minister of Trade and
Entrepreneurship Marat Bimatov. National LDPR leader
Zhirinovsky has called for Chirkunov's dismissal, but the
governor's United Russia supporters have rallied to his defense.
Chirkunov's offer to resign his position was not accepted by
the Kremlin. The future of Perm City Manager Arkady Kaz, who is
close to Chirkunov and is known as an effective manager, is also
uncertain: although the city duma did not accept his
resignation, he has been suspended pending outcome of the
investigation.

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3. (SBU) The immediate cause of the fire -- an indoor fireworks
display gone awry -- is quite clear, and responsibility for the
large number of deaths could be widespread. Obvious
irregularities in the club's operation were reported in the
press in the immediate aftermath of the fire: fire and building
code violations, including inadequate or blocked emergency
exits, plastic decorations that emitted toxic fumes that were
responsible for most of the deaths, and inattention to safety
procedures all contributed to the death toll. The local fire
chief and officials responsible for conducting regular
inspections have been dismissed and may face prosecution. The
club's main investor and general manager have been arrested, as
has the owner of the pyrotechnic firm that supplied the
fireworks. The club's principal owner perished in the fire.


4. (SBU) Comment: This is the second major disaster to befall
Perm in the last 15 months: a plane crash in September 2008
killed 88. Regardless of whether it was bureaucratic negligence
or corruption that is ultimately deemed responsible for the many
reported code violations that were allowed to persist in the
club's operations, the tragedy could dim the star of the
ambitious Chirkunov and may affect the futures of others on his
team. His plans for turning Perm into a cultural capital to
rival Moscow and St. Petersburg may have to be put on hold.
Moreover, members of post's locally-engaged staff were
well-acquainted with the restaurant and its general manager, who
was an alumna of a US international visitor program in the
1990's and considered one of Perm's most prominent female
entrepreneurs.

SANDUSKY

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