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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

35 Officials Implicated In Siberian Mine Blast

The country's industrial safety watchdog Friday implicated dozens of officials in last month's methane blast at the Yubileinaya mine in the Kemerovo region that killed 39 miners, but cited a short circuit as the main cause of the explosion.

Georgy Lavrik, general director of Yuzhkuzbassugol, which owns the mine, was one of 35 officials implicated in the report on the explosion, released Friday by the Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Atomic Inspection.

Lavrik failed to provide sufficiently safe working conditions, thus violating the Labor Code and company policy, the report said, Interfax reported.

But the head of the watchdog, Konstantin Pulikovsky, said the primary cause of the blast was a faulty safety system to monitor the concentration of methane gas in the mine.

The explosion would not have happened "if the safety system had been effective and reliable," Pulikovsky said, Interfax reported.

Pulikovsky said earlier this week that the safety system had been intentionally disabled by miners in "a rush for super-profits."

Lavrik said Friday that operations would resume at the mine next month, Interfax said.

Following the accident, Steel giant Evraz Group announced that it would assume full control of Yuzhkuzbassugol, and Pulikovsky said Friday that Evraz chief Alexander Frolov had told him that the deal had gone through.

Evraz had held a 50 percent stake in Yuzhkuzbassugol, which owns Yubileinaya and other area mines and is valued by analysts at about $2 billion.

Evraz was expected to buy out the rest of the company at a steep discount.

Lavrik said on Friday, however, that the agreement was still in progress.

"Yuzhkuzbassugol's board of directors will meet late next week" to discuss the deal, Lavrik told RIA-Novosti.

He added that some about 150 million rubles ($6 million) in compensation had already been paid to the victims' families.

The Ulyanovskaya mine, which is also owned by Yuzhkuzbassugol and where a blast killed 110 people in March, will be inspected by federal investigators in mid-June, company spokesman Sergei Gorbatov said Friday.

Meanwhile, Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev said Friday that he had filed a libel lawsuit against Pulikovsky for statements the safety watchdog director made earlier that regional authorities were aware of safety violations at the mine before the accident, Interfax reported.