Russian Minister of Emergency Situations, Yevgeny Zinichev, who tragically died on Wednesday in the city of Norilsk trying to save the life of filmmaker Alexander Melnik, will be remembered as a hero, his colleagues say.
Zinichev, aged 55, was appointed Minister of Civil Defence, Emergencies, and Disaster Relief in May 2018. Before that, he served in a series of state posts, including temporarily acting governor of the Kaliningrad Region, and deputy director of the Federal Security Service (FSB).
He was also a member of the Russian Security Council and General of the Army, which is the second-highest personal military rank of the Russian Armed Forces.
DEADLY RESCUE ATTEMPT
The incident occurred at a interdepartmental military exercise in Norilsk conducted by the Russian Ministry of Emergencies. Melnik, known for directing such Russian action movies as Terra Nova and Territory, came to the region to choose a site for the shooting of a new documentary about the development of the Arctic and the Northern Sea Route.
According to reports by the RT media outlet, Zinichev was standing near Melnik when the filmmaker slipped and fell off a cliff into the water. The minister immediately dove to save the man, but hit a rock. Both died instantly.
President Vladimir Putin has sent a letter of condolences to Zinichev’s family, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Sputnik.
“President Putin is deeply aggrieved by the tragic death of Yevgeny Zinichev. They are connected by many years of work together. This is a great loss. The president sent a telegram of condolences to the minister’s family and friends,” Peskov said.
Serbian President Alexander Vucic has offered condolences to everyone affected by the tragedy.
“It was with deep regret that I received the news of the tragic death of Minister Yevgeny Zinichev, who devoted his life to saving others in the most difficult situations. I express my deepest condolences to the government of the Russian Federation, the family, colleagues, and friends of Minister Zinichev,” Vucic wrote in a letter, published by his office.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said the late emergencies minister had significantly contributed to the protection of Russia’s national interests, the prevention of emergencies and their elimination.
“A high-class professional, competent, and principled leader, Yevgeny Nikolaevich Zinichev enjoyed great authority. We will forever preserve the good memory of this strong, courageous, and selfless man, a Russian officer, defender of the Fatherland,” the prime minister said in a statement.
Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Russia’s the Muslim-majority Chechen Republic, called Zinichev’s last act “a heroic deed” of a “true rescuer.”
“I knew him for twenty years. He was a strong, courageous man, a true patriot of our Fatherland. Yevgeny Nikolaevich died as a hero, saving a human life,” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram.
The head of Crimea, Sergey Aksenov, outlined Zinichev’s great contribution to the development of the peninsula.
“Yevgeny Nikolaevich did a lot for Russian Crimea… There are no words to express all the pain of loss. This is an irreparable loss. A courageous man, a real officer, a hero, true to his duty, he died while saving a person,” Aksenov wrote on Telegram.
Artur Parfenchikov, head of Russia’s Karelia, recalled the assistance of the late minister to the region in the fight against wildfires.
“Not long ago, Yevgeny Nikolaevich came to Karelia and helped us a lot in the fight against forest fires. Quickly and militarily, he gave the order to help the region stop the fire approaching our settlements,” Parfenchikov wrote on his VKontakte page.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov noted that Zinichev acted as a hero rather than “a big boss” and a minister.
“We were close friends, we had many joint projects of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Emergency Situations to promote common standards, prevent emergencies and eliminate their consequences. He gave his whole soul and all of himself to improving the work of his ministry,” Lavrov said.
Zinichev has become an example of courage and self-sacrifice, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia is convinced.
“Performing his official duty, the deceased heroically tried to save the life of a person who fell into the water, he showed an example of courage and self-sacrifice — an example of what a real lifeguard has to be, ready to come to the aid of every suffering person without hesitation,” Patriarch Kirill said in a statement.
Vadim Sinyavsky, Zinichev’s Belarusian counterpart, has offered condolences over his death on behalf of Minsk.
“He was an outstandingly talented person, a true patriot and a wise leader who earned impeccable authority and high respect not only in the Russian Federation but also abroad,” Sinyavsky said in a statement.
Russian Justice Minister Konstantin Chuychenko said that the late emergencies chief was committed to fulfilling his duty until the very end.
“Yevgeny Nikolaevich was distinguished by responsiveness, the highest professionalism, and dedication to his work. He was a true patriot, an honest, kind, and decent person who fulfilled his official duty to the end and with honor, ” the minister wrote in a letter.
Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia’s space agency Roscosmos, joined the expressions of condolences following Zinichev’s death.
“My sincere condolences. I knew him personally, we worked closely and fruitfully. Very sorry,” he wrote on his Telegram channel.
Russian Human Rights Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova also published her words of mourning over Zinichev’s death.
“I learned with a feeling of deep sorrow about the tragic death of Yevgeny Nikolaevich Zinichev. I express my deep condolences to the family and friends of Yevgeny Nikolaevich. Bright memory,” Moskalkova wrote on Instagram, adding that the late minister was “always in the hardest places.”
Vladimir Dzhabarov, First Deputy Chair of the Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, described the late minister to Sputnik as a “very modest, very responsible” executive who “did many good things” in his ministry during his short-term leadership.
“I am sincerely sorry, a very worthy person,” Dzhabarov said.
Anton Alikhanov, who was appointed governor of the Kaliningrad Region after Zinichev resigned from this post in October 2016, spoke out on the death of his predecessor.
“I express my sincere condolences to the family, relatives, and friends. A great loss not only for those who knew Yevgeny Nikolaevich personally but also for the entire staff of the Russian Emergencies Ministry,” Alikhanov wrote on Instagram.
The body of the deceased minister will arrive in Moscow later in the day by a special flight from Norilsk, which has already departed, a source close to the situation told Sputnik.