The verdict in the case of the terrible fire in the east of Moscow on September 22, 2016 was long awaited by both the suspects and the victims – the process dragged on for four years. On Tuesday, April 13, the Presnensky District Court found two defendants in this case guilty of the death of eight rescuers. Colonel Dmitry Shirlin, 38-year-old chief of fire and rescue forces of the Moscow Emergency Situations Administration, and 40-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Barsukov from the firefighting service of the Moscow Crisis Management Center were sentenced to suspended sentences – they received five and four years, respectively, with the deprivation of the right to hold positions in the fire department service. The defendants did not admit their guilt, their defenders believe that the investigation of the case dragged on for so long precisely because the prosecution did not have enough evidence of their guilt. The relatives of the victims are also dissatisfied with the suspended sentence, considering it too lenient. Lawyers for both sides told Izvestia that they would appeal the court decision.
On September 22, 2016, a former vegetable warehouse caught fire on Amurskaya Street in Moscow – various companies rented premises there for warehouses. To avoid the spread of fire, Colonel Dmitry Shirlin, who was in charge of the extinguishing, and his deputy, Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Barsukov, decided to send firefighters to the roof of the building to reinforce the rescuers who were already there.
The roof collapsed, and eight people – Alexander Yurchikov, Alexey Akimov, Roman Georgiev, Alexander Korentsov, Pavel Andryushkin, Nikolai Golubev, Sergey Sinelobov and Pavel Makarochkin – were burned alive.
According to the investigation, the leaders of the extinguishing operation committed negligence, underestimating the danger of the situation.
The relatives of the dead firefighters demanded the most severe punishment for the defendants. And the parents of 25-year-old senior lieutenant of the internal service Alexander Korentsov and 31-year-old senior firefighter Pavel Andryushkin also asked the court for compensation in a million rubles. The court satisfied the claim of Pavel’s mother in full, Alexander’s parents – in part.
Lawyers and colleagues of the defendants hoped for an acquittal. But the court decided otherwise. The 38-year-old chief of the fire and rescue forces of the Moscow Emergencies Ministry Directorate Dmitry Shirlin and 40-year-old Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Barsukov from the fire extinguishing service of the Moscow Crisis Management Center were found guilty of committing a crime under Part 3 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (“Negligence”). The prosecutor asked for the defendants up to six years in prison, but the court disagreed with the charge and sentenced both to suspended sentences – five and four years, respectively, with disqualification from holding positions in the fire service.
Dmitry Shirlin sent people to certain death, according to the relatives of the dead firefighters.
“He acted unprofessionally at the fire, he could not even tell the judge whether he had at least some kind of extinguishing tactics,” Svetlana Korentsova, the mother of the deceased Alexander Korentsov, told Izvestia. – We believe that he had no tactics, and that he showed not only negligence, but also indifference. Radio signals that the situation was worsening were received repeatedly, but he sent people to the roof to extinguish the fire without water. All the guys in the unit cried bitterly after the death of their comrades, and he humiliated them. This man said in court that he would accept any punishment. And now he says he will appeal the verdict. What is it like?
Oksana Oparenko, a lawyer who represented the interests of Larisa Liseenko, the widow of the deceased captain Roman Georgiev, told Izvestia that she was partially satisfied with the verdict, since it was a conviction. – The court recognized the defendants’ actions as negligence, referring to the testimony of the witness Kutuzov, the head of one of the fire departments, who, after the deterioration of the situation, recalled his people from the burning facility. It is considered proven that Shirlin and Barsukov not only did not do this, but also sent additional reserves to the roof, which led to a tragedy. But in terms of the suspended sentence, we, of course, will appeal against the verdict, – she explained.
According to her, the intense struggle for justice went on for too long to leave the suspended sentence without appeal. And the cost of the crime is too high to back down.
The lawyer of the convicted Dmitry Shirlin, Ruslan Golenkov, believes that the investigation of his client’s case was carried out one-sidedly, without taking into account the most important circumstances. Even after several years had elapsed since the initiation of the case, the picture of the tragedy was so vague that the court had to order a comprehensive explosives expertise – already the third in this process. She testified that if fire penetrated into the compressor room with ammonia, an explosion could have occurred. This forced Shirlin to act in conditions of extreme necessity, and he could not foresee the onset of dangerous consequences, the lawyer told Izvestia.
– We believe that the evidence examined in the court does not support the prosecution’s arguments that Shirlin committed negligence. He had no choice but to send people to the roof. He could not have foreseen that a deflagration explosion would occur due to the high temperatures. We believe that this is what caused the roof to collapse, ”Dmitry Shirlin’s lawyer told Izvestia on the eve of the verdict.
The lawyer of the second defendant, Sergei Barsukov, Alexei Tarasov, told the publication that his client had come under investigation illegally.
– Barsukov is charged that he had to carry out reconnaissance in the fire and take actions based on the information he received, but he ignored these signals. But according to the existing regulatory documents, he, as the chief of staff, did not carry out reconnaissance, these are false arguments. The main document by which one can judge Barsukov’s actions on the fire – the logbook, where all the actions of the firemen on the call are recorded, – was not even attached to the case, – the defender was indignant.
Both lawyers consider a suspended sentence much better than a real sentence, but now their goal is to get convicts to acquit.
The chairman of the All-Russian Voluntary Fire Society Valery Kudryavtsev also considers Shirlin and Barsukov to be innocent of what happened. The investigation of the case dragged on for so long precisely because the prosecution did not have enough evidence of their guilt, he believes.
It was not Shirlin and Barsukov who should have been brought to criminal responsibility for the prosecution, but the owners of the warehouse where the fire broke out. For unauthorized re-equipment of the premises and flagrant violation of fire safety regulations. In Soviet times, trains approached a two-hundred-meter hangar from both sides and unloaded food into refrigerators. The new owner of the facility blocked the access roads with walls and rented out a huge, five thousand square meters, premises for rent to entrepreneurs. He had neither design documentation nor permission for reconstruction, the expert noted.
At the time of the fire, the warehouse lacked a fire extinguishing system and even an elementary alarm. The owners of the warehouse were fined several times for violations before the tragedy, the source told Izvestia. After the fire, neither the owner of the burnt warehouse, nor his administration were brought to justice., emphasized Valery Kudryavtsev.
The expert considers the incident to be a tragic coincidence. He recalled that after the fires in the Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping center in Kemerovo and in the Narodny shopping center in Syktyvkar, which led to mass deaths, the firefighters involved in extinguishing received real sentences. And after the Kemerovo events, the personnel of the fire services suffered heavy losses – people began to quit en masse.