Vladimir Putin has announced that bereaved families whose loved ones died in the Perm nightclub fire will each receive 500,000 rubles compensation. The measure exacerbates the sense that this incident, which cost 113 lives, was not simply a terrible accident.
The Lame Horse nightclub failed to observe fire regulations. And its owners are reported to have left the city in an attempt to flee the scene, shortly after it burnt down. It has been alleged that the premises suffered from ‘the same firetrap conditions’ for eight years.
The club’s website ‘gallery’ shows revellers dancing beneath a dry weave of twigs. In retrospect it does appear an obvious fire hazard. Although many of us will have been in venues throughout Europe which appeared equally unsafe.
The site itself has become a poignant and disturbing remnant of a death-trap. The menus, the news section, hold the same macabre fascination involved in browsing the diary of a murderer.
A criminal investigation is now in progress, which could result in charges of ’reckless negligence’ and seven year prison sentences for those responsible. Whether a little soul searching will take place about corruption in Russia remains to be seen. Dmitry Medvedev has spoken before about rooting out legal nihilism.
Of course corruption and negligence are not exclusive to former Soviet countries and other similar incidents have taken place before.
What is beyond dispute is the terrible suffering which this fire has caused.
At the Russian embassy in Riga, Latvia, crowds have gathered to lay flowers and a book of condolence has been opened. In Russia itself a day of mourning has been observed. The shared grief of fractious rivals a potent symbol of the universal impact of human tragedy.