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Putin pardons mine disaster director Funk

(Aug 22, 2017)

The ex-mine director of the Yuzhkuzbassugol-operated Ulyanovskaya mine in Siberia, where at least 110 people died in a methane explosion a decade ago, has been pardoned by Russia’s president Vladimir Putin after two years in prison.

Russia’s official website of legal information said Putin had signed a decree releasing Andrey Funk from prison, with the order to take effect 10 days after its official publication.

Funk was sentenced to six years in prison in April 2015 after he was found guilty, along with five others, of violating safety rules at explosion hazardous facilities resulting in many deaths. The explosion was found to be caused by a sparks from an exposed cable igniting methane gas, which then ignited coal dust.

The Investigative Committee of Russia wrote in a report at the time of sentencing that the accident was “caused by the fact that the CEOs of the mine in the period between June 2006 and the moment of explosion ignored the safety requirements for mine works in order to fulfil the programme … miners continued their job under the threat of being sacked or have reduced bonuses.”

It also found that Funk and other managers had ordered the tampering of the emergency shut down mechanisms of the air and gas control equipment in the case of high methane concentration to avoid shut downs and achieve higher coal production and better profits.

“Their [the managers] subordinates made failures to wireline networks of the protection system setting their different devices which prevented automatic shut downs of equipment under the ground, made changes to software of the equipment to conceal the gas content, did not put in the journal records on dangerous concentration of methane and did not inform mine surveillance authorities about those violations,” the committee wrote.

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