Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry reports that Minister Yevgeny Zinichev has died "while carrying out his service duties" during exercises being carried out in the Arctic, although multiple reports have sprung up contradicting the official version of the 55-year-old's death.
"The Emergency Situations Ministry of the Russian Federation informs with sorrow that while carrying out his service duties, during interdepartmental exercises on defending the Arctic zone from extraordinary situations, and while attempting to rescue a person, the chief of the Emergency Situations Ministry, Yevgeny Zinichev, has tragically died," the Emergency Situations Ministry said in a statement on September 8.
It added that Zinichev died in the city of Norilsk, but gave no further details.
However, the independent RBK, Tayga.info, and RTVi media outlets quoted unnamed sources as saying that Zinichev died in a tourist area near Lake Lama, about 120 kilometers from Norilsk.
RBK and RTVi suggested their sources said Zinichev died after traveling to an area in or near the Putoransky Nature Reserve the day after opening the exercises.
The reports could not immediately be corroborated.
RT Editor in Chief Margarita Simonyan said in a tweet that Zinichev died after he fell off a cliff while trying to grab a cameraman who himself had just slipped. The cameraman is also dead, she said, citing eyewitnesses.
The Emergency Situations Ministry later identified the cameraman as well-known Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Melnik. He was 63.
President Vladimir Putin "expressed deep condolences" to Zinichev's relatives and friends, the Kremlin website said, adding that Putin and Zinichev, both natives of St. Petersburg, had worked together for many years.
Zinichev was in the region to oversee large-scale drills and to visit the construction site of a new fire station in Norilsk, as well as a search-and-rescue team in the area.
Before becoming head of the Emergency Situations Ministry in October 2018, Zinichev held a number of jobs including as former deputy director of the Federal Security Service, part of Putin's personal security detail, and briefly as acting regional governor of Kaliningrad for two months in 2016.