Russian Federation calls off search for victims of mall fire

Smoke rises above a multi-story shopping center in the Siberian city of Kemerovo about 3,000 kilometers east of Moscow Russia on Sunday

Russian Federation mourned today 64 victims, many of them children, in a tragic shopping mall fire in the Siberian region of Kemerovo, amid mournful ceremonies, masses and improvised pantheons.

Protesters held banners reading "Bribes kill children" and "We demand a real investigation", and some chanted "Down with the cowardly regime!", "Putin - resign!", "What did the children die for?" and "We are sick and exhausted of him", meaning Putin.

Meanwhile, Putin termed the mall as "criminal negligence". Funerals for the victims have begun in Kemerovo today.

At least 64 people have been confirmed dead in the fire that engulfed the Winter Cherry mall in Kemerovo on Sunday, the first weekend of the school recess, when it was packed with parents and children.

As many as 27 out of 64 people killed in the fire have been identified so far, the head of the Kemerovo Region Main Directorate of the Russian Emergencies Ministry, Alexander Mamontov, told reporters on Wednesday.

Investigators said fire exits had been illegally blocked, the public address system had not been switched on, the fire alarm system was broken, and children had been locked inside cinemas. One message read: "Children, forgive us". He is one of two arrested and three detained in connection with the case so far.

Security guards, supposed to help with any emergency evacuation, were reportedly among the first to flee when the fire broke out.

A man who lost his daughter in the blaze said he told her over the phone to lie down on the floor and breathe, but she kept saying she loved him. A number of the victims, many of them children, died inside a locked movie theater. The investigators are also considering other theories.

"The investigation team of the Investigative Committee works in accordance with the demands that they have".

The Kemerovo fire comes at a delicate domestic political moment for Putin, who sailed to a re-election victory on March 18.

Tuleyev apologised to Putin over the rally, calling its organisers troublemakers.

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