Russia emergencies minister dies during Arctic exercise
Russia’s emergencies minister, Yevgeny Zinichev, has died while attempting to save another man’s life during a civil defence training exercise in the Arctic, according to witnesses.
Zinichev, 55, was at a two-day military exercise involving several law enforcement agencies in Norilsk when he fell from a rock while trying to save filmmaker Alexander Melnik who had fallen into the icy water. Both men died.
Melnik, 63, who was in Norilsk making a documentary about the Arctic and the Northern Sea Route, reportedly slipped on a wet rock.
Melnik was a director and screenwriter known for the 2015 Arctic adventure movie Territory.
Russia’s media said the incident occurred at the Kitabo Oron waterfall in the Putorana nature reserve in northern Siberia, approximately 165km west of Norilsk.
The minister was overseeing the first large-scale inter-agency exercises of their kind in the Russian Arctic, involving 6,000 personnel conducting emergency response and research operations stretching across seven regions in the Russian Arctic.
Opening up the vast Arctic is a priority for Russia and it has numerous ambitious but potentially environmentally disastrous projects to exploit the frozen region’s natural resources as it melts due to the climate crisis.
As head of the emergencies ministry, Zinichev held one of the highest-profile government jobs, dealing with natural and human-caused disasters and other rapid-response operations within Russia.
Editor of state-controlled RT Margarita Simonyan posted on Telegram: “There were a fair number of witnesses – no one even had time to think about what had happened when Zinichev threw himself into the water after the fallen person and crashed into a protruding rock.”
Zinichev’s body was flown back to Moscow.
Russia’s Emergencies Ministry stated: “Yevgeny tried to grab Alexander and jumped after him but, unfortunately, they both died after falling from a high cliff into a mountain river.”
Moscow said Zinichev served in the state security services from 1987 to 2015 and was President Vladimir Putin’s bodyguard and personal aide.
Both men started their careers in the KGB.
Zinichev later became deputy head of the Federal Security Service and served briefly as the acting regional governor of the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.
Zinichev became the emergency situations minister in 2018. The minister was also a member of Russia’s powerful Security Council.
Putin said a message of condolence. “We had worked together for many years. We have lost a true military officer, a comrade, a person of great inner strength and courage and bravery close to all of us. For me, this is an irreparable personal loss.”
Yevgeny Zinichev and President Vladimir Putin in 2016. Picture credit: Wikimedia