Russia blaze: Australia-based co-owner of mall 'greatly saddened' by disaster

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A Russian billionaire who co-owns the Siberan mall where 64 people died says he's offering compensation to the families of the victims.

A Russian billionaire who lives in Australia and co-owns the Siberian mall where 64 people died in a raging fire, says he’s saddened by the tragic disaster.

Denis Shtengelov, a co-owner of the Winter Cherry building, also says he's offering compensation to the victim's families.

"We are greatly saddened by this tragic disaster and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of this tragedy,” he told SBS News in a statement.

Mr Shtengelov lives with his family on the Gold Coast, where he owns a sports facility managed by his sister. He splits his time there with Russia, where his company is based.

It's been revealed 41 children were among the 64 killed in the blaze which started at the upper levels of the mall at the weekend. Authorities are still trying to recover the bodies of six victims still trapped inside. 

The cause of the blaze is still unknown.

Russian investigators say four people have been detained and are being questioned over the blaze, including the head of the managing company providing services to the shopping mall and a tenant of the space at the centre of the fire.

Mr Shtengelov has told Russian media he’s just an investor and did not know specific details of the building, such as the materials used.

He said he won't be returning to Russia.

“We have started selling individual sites so the whole complex has many owners,” he told Russian media outlet Mash, naming another official.

“If you were to ask me, I would say she (the official) is the director.

“She was appointed as the director of the shopping mall. Naturally I was involved in the appointment of the director.”

Russian Denis Shtengelov
Russian Denis Shtengelov (second from right)
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Officials say fire exits were illegally blocked as the blaze raged, and an alarm system was turned off by a security guard who'd just received an emergency call.

Russian president Vladimir Putin says criminal negligence was behind the tragedy.

He made the comments are visiting the scene of the fire and laying flowers in a makeshift memorial near the site.

“What's happening here? This isn't war, it's not a spontaneous methane outburst in a mine,” he said.

"People came to relax, children... We're talking about demography and losing so many people.

“Why? “Because of some criminal negligence, because of slovenliness. How could this ever happen? What was the reason? What are the consequences?"

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