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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fire Safety, Toilets Criticized at Schools

The Emergency Situations Ministry said Wednesday that it had closed more than 160 schools because of fire-safety violations.

"The activities of 161 educational establishments have currently been halted temporarily by the courts," the ministry said in a statement on its web site.

Courts will consider the closing of a further 900 schools for the same reason.

During inspections earlier this year, more than 30,000 school employees were charged with misdemeanors for failing to adhere to fire-safety regulations, the statement said, adding that the last four years had seen a 15 percent drop in the number of fires in schools.

The ministry's statement came on the same day as an announcement by Federal Education Agency head Grigory Balykhin that 70 schools did not open on Sept. 1, the first day of the school year, because they had not received permission after failing fire-safety checks.

It was unclear whether the figures from Balykhin and the Emergency Situations Ministry overlapped.

Meanwhile, almost half of Russia's schools have no toilets, Balykhin said.

"In 40 percent of our schools there is no sewerage system, and the toilets are cesspits in the schoolyard," Balykhin said, Itar-Tass reported.

Where schools are not failing, he said, is in catering. "Eighty-five percent of schools serve hot food," he said.

More than 600 new schools, mainly in rural areas, opened this year, and Balykhin described fire-safety standards at these as "ideal."