Russia's emergencies minister died Wednesday during a drill exercise while attempting to save a filmmaker, who also died. Film director Alexander Melnik slipped off a cliff at the Kitabo Oron waterfall in the Putorana nature reserve in northern Siberia, landing in water, the BBC quotes Margarita Simonyan, the head of Russian broadcaster RT, as saying. Yevgeny Zinichev, 55, "rushed after the fallen man and died after hitting a protruding rock," Simonyan added. The ministry said Zinichev "tragically died in the line of duty during interagency exercises to protect the Arctic zone from emergency situations, while saving a person's life," per the AP.
The incident is said to have occurred early Wednesday during two days of emergency drills involving 18 government agencies and 6,000 specialists across seven regions of Russia's Arctic. The drills came ahead of Russia's quadrennial Zapad military exercises with Belarus, which are to begin Friday, reports the Washington Post. Melnik, who filmed the 2015 Arctic adventure film Territory in the region, was reportedly filming a training video for the ministry at the time of his fall. He was also said to be planning a documentary about Russia's development of the Arctic and its Northern Sea Route.
Deputy Emergencies Minister Andrei Gurovich said Zinichev acted instinctively "not as a minister, but as a rescuer, carrying out a heroic feat. He did that all his life," per the Post. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov describes his death as "a great loss." Zinichev was a member of President Vladimir Putin's inner circle who formerly served with his security detail and as his aide-de-camp. Like Putin, Zinichev was from St. Petersburg and worked for the Soviet Union's main security agency, the KGB. He became the second-highest ranking official in the federal security service in 2016 and was named emergencies minister in 2018. (Read more Russia stories.)