Dmitry Medvedev on Friday called for prosecution of people even partially responsible for last weekend's deadly Volga River boat sinking, as police announced plans to arrest two ship captains that may have ignored the capsizing, DPA reported.
At least 113 people aboard the river cruise ship Bulgaria are known to have drowned on Sunday when the holiday cruiser capsized in a storm near the port city Kazan.
"This means not only the people that stamped the papers and the scapegoats need to be punished, but also the people that organized the cruise," Medvedev said, according to Interfax.
"The next time, any one involved with sending such a vessel out onto the water needs to know he can be not just held responsible, but criminally responsible," he said, saying Russia "can never again" allow a disaster like the sinking of the Bulgaria.
Medvedev's comments at a conference in the central city Gorky came as Russian prosecutors said they planned to arrest the captains of two cargo ships that sailed past the site of tourist steamer's sinking on possible charges of endangering life by failing to give aid to people in distress.
The two captains will be tried in a criminal court unless investigators determine the storm was too severe for them to have noticed people in the water, said Ildar Khalidov, a senior regional official.
Vladimir Markin, head of a government committee investigating the accident, said other officials "without regard to their rank and position" will face criminal charges if their "acts or inaction" helped contribute to the sinking.
People working in local tourism and maritime safety agencies will be the first targets of the investigations, he said.
Some 79 people survived from a total 208 people thought to have been on board, according to the latest official counts. Searches were continuing for the remains of people still missing.
Investigators have said was the accident probably caused by high waves, overloading and poor maintenance of the vessel.