Russian nightclub fire: Corruption behind Lame Horse tragedy?
After a Russian nightclub fire killed 113 people in Perm, a national day of mourning and allegations that corruption fed the tragedy.
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"There is a criminal levity toward life, one's own and the lives of others, that prevails in this country," says Alexei Makarkin, deputy director of the Independent Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. "There is a Russian attitude which we call 'avos' (roughly meaning 'que sera, sera') that led them to think, 'hey, we've been doing this for eight years and it's always been OK. So why worry?'," he says.Skip to next paragraph
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Bribes vs. fire code enforcment
Some Russians say that while it's hard to argue with the Kremlin's tough response, it may amount to little more than an energetic burst of political theater unless something is done to address the deeper culture of corruption that enables unsafe enterprises of all kinds to routinely escape regulation by paying off inspectors when they come around.
Alexander Fridman, a local entertainment producer in Perm, says he has little doubt that corruption has to be factored into any explanation for the Lame Horse tragedy.
"Fire inspectors found violations of the regulations a year ago, yet they didn't come back to check whether corrections were made. Why was that?," he asks. "There were hundreds of people gathering at that club every night, yet they never closed it down. The basic lesson is that fire inspectors should not take bribes."
Amid Russia's decaying infrastructure and often jury-rigged new construction, the potential for such accidents abound because laws are not enforced, experts say.
"I see this danger everywhere I go, especially places like supermarkets," says Vyacheslav Glazychev, a professor at Moscow's official Institute of Architecture. "As long as we have this practice of paying bribes rather than making the needed improvements, nothing will change."
Mr. Medvedev pledged that change will occur. "We need to think about the laws for such events," he said. "They need to be much stricter. Failure to abide by them, including breaches of fire safety regulations, should be much more severely punished."
But Viktor Ilyukhin, a member of the State Duma's security committee, says that just tinkering with the laws won't work.
This tragedy "shows that the whole system is in an unbalanced state," he says. "It can't be repaired. It has to be changed."