Russia’s emergencies minister has died trying to save a filmmaker who slipped from a cliff during training exercises in the Arctic, officials said Wednesday. Yevgeny Zinichev, who previously served in President Vladimir Putin’s security detail, is the first Russian cabinet member to die on duty. It was not immediately clear when the death took place.
President Vladimir Putin was notified of the minister’s death, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. He was lauded by senior government officials and the Russian leader as a loyal civil servant and a “hero.” The UK’s ambassador in Russia also offered condolences. The 55-year-old “tragically died trying to save a person’s life” near the city of Norilsk, the ministry said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies. For most of his career he worked in state security, beginning with the Soviet KGB and eventually rising to number two in Russia’s federal security service in 2016. Zinichev was a member of the KGB security service in the last years of the USSR and his career took off after he served in Putin’s security detail between 2006 and 2015. He held a number of high-profile jobs, briefly serving as acting governor of Russia’s exclave region of Kaliningrad and then as deputy head of the Federal Security Service (FSB). In May 2018, he was appointed head of the emergencies ministry. As head of the emergencies ministry, he held one of the highest-profile cabinet jobs, dealing with natural and man-made disasters and other rapid-response situations across the vast country. The two-day drills he was participating in across several Arctic cities including Norilsk, kicked off on Tuesday and involved over 6,000 people.