Fire kills 17 Kyrgyz nationals in Moscow printing plant

August 27, 2016 4:44 AM EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A fire in a Moscow printing plant killed 17 people on Saturday, officials said, and a representative of the Kyrgyz diaspora in Russia said all the dead were members of its community.

"The incident happened when people were changing shifts at the printing house. It is very hard for us," Abdygany Shakirov, the Kyrgyz representative told Reuters.

Around 500,000 citizens of the impoverished former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan are working in Russia. The two countries belong to a Russian-dominated customs union.

The Investigative Committee, which reports directly to President Vladimir Putin, said a criminal inquiry had been launched into the deaths of 16 of the victims of the blaze.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in his Twitter feed that one more person died later in a hospital.

Ilya Denisov, an Emergencies Ministry official, told Rossiya-24 TV station a malfunctioning lamp caused the fire.

Lax fire safety standards are often blamed for fatal workplace blazes in Russia. In January, 12 people died in a fire in a Moscow clothing factory.

(Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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