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A top Russian official and former Putin bodyguard died diving into an Arctic river to rescue a filmmaker

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Russia's Emergency Situations Minister Yevgeny Zinichev
Russia's Emergency Situations Minister Yevgeny Zinichev
  • The Russian emergency management chief died diving into an Arctic river after a filmmaker who fell in.

  • Yevgeny Zinichev reportedly struck a rock and died. The filmmaker, Alexander Melnik, did not survive either.

  • Zinichev was close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, having previously served on his security detail.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Russia's emergency management chief Yevgeny Zinichev died on Wednesday diving into an Arctic river in an attempt to rescue a filmmaker who fell in. Neither man survived.

Zinichev, who led the Ministry of Emergency Situations, died at age 55 trying to save Alexander Melnik, who fell off a cliff into the water below during an emergency response exercise in the Arctic, The Washington Post reported, citing Russian media reports.

Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief at RT, a Russian media outlet, wrote on Twitter that Zinichev hit a rock when he dove in after the filmmaker, who slipped while in the area working on a documentary.

"There were a fair number of witnesses," Simonyan wrote in a social media post on the incident. "No one even had time to think about what had happened when Zinichev threw himself into the water for the fallen person and crashed into a protruding rock."

"Without a moment's hesitation, he acted not as a minister, but as a rescuer. He performed a heroic deed; this is how he lived all his life," Andrei Gurovich, the deputy head of the emergency situations ministry, said in a televised statement on Zinichev death.

Zinichev began working for Russia's security services in 1987. In 2014, he was the deputy head of the of a counterterrorism operation, and from 2016 to 2018, he was deputy director of Russia's Federal Security Service, a domestic intelligence service. He became the emergency management chief in 2018.

For a period of time starting in 2006, he was a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin's security detail, The New York Times reported.

Putin personally offered his condolences to the family and friends of Zinichev in a telegram, which read: "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 immeasurable personal loss," the Russian leader said, calling Zinichev a reliable and loyal friend. He said the minister died "doing his duty to the end."

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