Medvedev urges harsh punishments for Volga cruise disaster guilty

President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday that all those responsible for the deadly sinking of a cruise boat on the Volga River should receive tough punishments.

As many as 208 people were on board the twin-deck Bulgaria when it capsized in a thunderstorm on Sunday. 113 bodies have so far been recovered, many of them children. Just 79 passengers survived.

The boat was critically overloaded, in a poor condition, and its owners had no license to organize cruises.

“Everyone involved in organizing this should bare responsibility,” Medvedev said at a meeting with investigators at his Gorki residence near Moscow.

“Next time, every official, regardless of his rank, will understand that consequences for such a ship leaving a port can be not only disciplinary, but criminal,” he said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has blamed “irresponsibly, negligence and greed” for the tragedy.

On Wednesday, the head of the company that leased the boat and a river transport inspector were taken into custody pending criminal charges.

Investigators have also instructed police to arrest the captains of two ships that passed by the sinking Bulgaria ship without trying to help rescue people on board. They face up to two years behind bars if found guilty of deliberately ignoring a vessel in distress.

Alexander Yegorov, the captain of the Dunaisy-66, said he had misjudged the scale of the accident, and that the barges in his charge would have made it impossible to provide help. Survivors from the sinking ship were eventually picked up by the MV Arabella vessel.

Rescue workers completed their search of the sunken vessel on Friday. The boat will be brought to the surface at the weekend.

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