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8 Sep, 2021 09:49

Head of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry dies in line of duty, attempting to ‘save a life’ during exercises near Arctic city Norilsk

Head of Russia’s Emergencies Ministry dies in line of duty, attempting to ‘save a life’ during exercises near Arctic city Norilsk

The head of Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations, Evgeny Zinichev, has died in the country's far north, officials confirmed on Wednesday. The minister was reportedly involved in a fatal accident while taking part in a drill.

In a statement, the Department confirmed that Zinichev “was tragically killed while on duty, while taking part in inter-agency exercises designed to protect the Arctic zone from emergencies, as he tried to save a person’s life.”

He had been inspecting a new fire station in the city of Norilsk as part of the visit.

According to RT’s Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan, the minister and a cameraman had been “standing on the edge of a ledge when the cameraman slipped and fell into the water. While there were numerous eyewitnesses, nobody had a chance to realize what was going on before Zinichev dived into the water after the man, who had fallen and hit an outcrop.” Simonyan added that “he died as a rescuer – rest in peace.” She went on to say that the camera operator had also died.

RT correspondent Semyon Senderov had been covering the emergency workers' exercises as part of a group of journalists. According to him, "we were standing next to Zinichiev for most of the drill... For the whole time, he was among the spectators and not actually taking part - so it's particularly hard to believe what has just happened."

Ministry officials later confirmed that the minister had been trying to rescue Alexander Melnik, a videographer and director working on a documentary about the Arctic region. "Melnik had worked with the department for many years," the statement said.

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Zinichev was 55 years old and had headed the Ministry of Emergency Situations since May 2018, as well as serving on the country’s Security Council. His department, which is charged with responding to incidents like terrorist attacks and natural disasters, had been battling a series of raging wildfires across Siberia and the Far East in recent weeks, as well as working in flood-hit cities in the south of Russia.

Prior to taking on the job, Zinichev had served as regional head of the FSB, the country’s top domestic security agency, in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. He also worked as a personal aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin from 2006 to 2015. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Wednesday that Putin had been informed about Zinichev’s death.The Minister of Emergency Situations is one of the most prominent in the Russian government. The job was previously held by Sergey Shoigu, who has since gone on to become the country’s defense minister.