Thousands protest as Vladimir Putin blames 'criminal negligence' for Kemerovo shopping centre fire

Thousands of angry and distraught Russians have rallied in a Siberian city to demand a full probe into a shopping centre fire that killed at least 64 people, many of them children.

Vladimir Putin has blamed "criminal negligence" for the tragedy in Kemerovo on Sunday.

The Russian president laid flowers at a makeshift memorial to the victims in the city on Tuesday.

There has been frustration with the official response to the fire. Credit: AP

There has been frustration with the official response to the fire: the local governor has not visited the site or met with the relatives, and Mr Putin, who did not meet with protesters on Tuesday, has not announced a period of national mourning.

The blaze engulfed the Winter Cherry mall on Sunday, the first weekend of the school holidays, trapping dozens of parents and children inside.

Eyewitnesses reported that fire alarms were silent and many doors were locked.

Some of the victims were children who died in a locked movie theatre.

The blaze engulfed the Winter Cherry mall on Sunday. Credit: AP

The residents rallied outside the regional government building in Kemerovo for hours, with many of the protesters taking the stage to accuse authorities of hiding the true scale of the disaster.

Investigators said emergency exits were blocked and a security guard turned off the public announcement system when he received a call about the blaze.

Alexander Bastrykin, chief of the Investigative Committee, told Mr Putin during a meeting in Kemerovo that the fire alarm had not been operational for two weeks and the security guard was detained but they still had no "reasonable" explanation for his actions.

At least 64 people are known to have died in the fire. Credit: AP