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KEMEROVO, February 18. /ITAR-TASS/. Novokuznetsky district court in Russia's western Siberian Kemerovo region has dropped the criminal case over the explosion at the Ulyanovskaya coalmine in March 2007, in which 110 people were killed, prosecutors told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
"After reviewing the defense's petition on Tuesday, the court passed the resolution to drop the proceedings due to statute of limitation," a regional prosecutor said, adding that the prosecutor's office would study the text of the court's resolution before deciding on whether it would appeal.
On March 19, 2007, a methane explosion in a mine in the Novokuznetsk district killed 110 workers, and injured another seven. The damage to the Yuzhkuzbassugol company was estimated at 616 million roubles.
Ulyanovskaya mine director Andrei Funk, shift supervisor Yuri Pimenov, ventilation and safety mechanic Gennady Kraskov, foreman Oleg Kozyavin and electricians Denis But and Oleg Sobakin were accused of violating safety rules at explosion-hazardous facilities, which caused the death of two more persons by negligence.
Negligence charges were brought against head of the Kuibyshev mining department Sergei Sleptsov and inspectors of the same department Alexander Kostromin and Igor Dmitriyev. However the criminal probe against them was dropped in April 2013 due to statute of limitation.
The investigators said the explosion was the result of the company administration's ignoring safety rules in order to meet production targets in the period from June 2006 to the moment of the explosion. The British equipment to monitor the aerogas environment, which automatically disconnects electric machinery in case of high methane concentration, was tampered with to prevent production shutdown, at the administration's orders. Also, the software was changed to conceal methane concentration logs and other violations.
Threatened by dismissal or cuts in pay, coal miners continued production despite the ubiquitous presence of explosion-prone concentration of methane, the investigators said.