Roof Collapse Investigation Suspended

MTPart of the Basmanny Market roof being raised by a crane in February 2006.
Investigators have suspended the probe into the 2006 roof collapse at the Basmanny Market, saying Tuesday that they had failed to identify the guilty party.

Sixty-six people -- mostly Azeri vendors -- were killed in the roof collapse, making it the city's deadliest industrial accident in Moscow in recent history.

Investigators suspended the investigation because they could not identify anyone to be held responsible for the collapse, Mikhail Ionkin, spokesman for the Moscow branch of the Investigative Committee, told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.

Construction experts questioned by investigators had failed to identify the cause of the collapse, Ionkin added.

Alexandra Alitovskaya, a defense lawyer for Mark Meshiyev, the market's director and only suspect in the probe, said Tuesday that the case against his client had been dropped because of a lack of evidence, Vesti.ru reported.

Meshiyev -- who was under orders not to leave the city for more than two years pending completion of the investigation -- was accused of neglecting safety standards and of allowing vendors to sleep inside the market.

The snow-laden roof of the market collapsed in the early hours of Feb. 23, 2006, and there may have been fewer casualties had Mishiyev enforced regulations that the market be vacated at night, prosecutors said at the time.

Reached by telephone Tuesday, Nikolai Klyon, another lawyer for Meshiyev, said investigators could resume the probe should new leads emerge.