MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia on Wednesday detained the co-owner of a major coal company and three of its senior managers to face charges over an explosion that killed 51 people at a Siberian mine last month.
President Vladimir Putin has accused the management of the Listvyazhnaya mine in Siberia’s Kemerovo coal-producing region of falsifying methane levels to conceal the fact that its level was too high.
The Investigative Committee that investigates major crimes said it had asked the court to remand the four individuals, including coal tycoon Mikhail Fedyaev whose company owns the mine, in custody on charges of flouting safety rules or abusing authority.
Fedyaev, who denied his guilt in court, could face up to 10 years in jail, RIA news agency reported. The three other men denied their guilt during questioning, investigators said.
Fedyaev and his partners control SDS-Ugol, the company that owns the Listvyazhnaya mine.
The blast at the mine, located some 3,500 km (2,200 miles) east of Moscow, was Russia’s worst since 2010 when explosions killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same region.
During a televised meeting with Putin following the blast, Fedyaev said: “I am ready to bear any responsibility.”
The other men detained were Gennady Alexeyev, the company’s general director, Anton Yakutov, technical director, and the mine’s chief engineer Anatoly Lobanov.
A court in Siberia last month remanded five other people – including the mine’s director and two safety inspectors – in custody for two months to face charges over the explosion.
(Reporting by Anton Kolodyazhnyy; writing by Polina Devitt/Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; editing by Robert Birsel and Barbara Lewis)