Russia’s emergency situations minister dies in Arctic drill

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s emergency situations minister has died during drills, the ministry said Wednesday.

Yevgeny Zinichev, 55, “tragically died in the line of duty during inter-agency exercises to protect the Arctic zone from emergency situations, while saving a person’s life,” the ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies.

The ministry didn’t offer any details about where or how he died. According to its website, in recent days Zinichev was on a trip to the Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk. On Tuesday, he opened large-scale drills spanning seven regions in the Russian Arctic that were scheduled to last through Wednesday.

In a statement sent to the Associated Press, the ministry said Zinichev died while trying to save prominent film director Alexander Melnik, who came to the site of drills. The statement didn’t elaborate as to what happened and whether Melnik survived.

The RBC news site reported, citing an anonymous source, that Zinichev died while taking part in a video shoot. He tried to save a cameraman who tripped and fell off a ledge into the water and they both died, the report said.

Margarita Simonyan, chief editor of Russia’s state-funded TV channel RT, also said on social media that is what happened.

“Together with a cameraman, they stood on the edge of a ledge. The cameraman tripped and fell into water. There were enough witnesses — no one had even figured out what had happened when Zinichev rushed into the water after the man and fell onto a protruding stone,” Simonyan wrote.

Zinichev became the head of Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry in 2018. His predecessor stepped down not long after a major fire in a shopping mall in Siberia killed more than 60 people, sending shockwaves throughout the country.

In 2016, Zinichev had a two-month stint as an acting governor of Russia’s westernmost Kaliningrad region. For a long time before that, he was part of President Vladimir Putin’s personal security detail.

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