Putin tears up at funeral of friend Yevgeny Zinichev who died saving cameraman at drill

Putin looked devastated as he bid farewell to Zinichev, who reportedly was his emergencies minister and former personal bodyguard


                            Putin tears up at funeral of friend Yevgeny Zinichev who died saving cameraman at drill
Vladimir Putin looks devastated as he bids farewell to his close friend Yevgeny Zinichev (Photo by Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Vladimir Putin was recently seen crying over the coffin of a close friend who died while trying to save a cameraman. Putin and the Russian establishment rest were attending the service to mourn the passing of emergencies minister Yevgeny Zinichev, who died at the age of 55 while reportedly "trying to save a man's life in an Arctic drill".

The sad news comes just two weeks after tragedy struck another of Putin's close friends, Oleg Tsaryov -- a former Ukrainian MP, whose 17-year-old daughter, Ekaterina Tsarova died from 'medical error'.

Putin had also made headlines back in June for a very frosty handshake with US President Joe Biden as the two barely made any eye contact during a Geneva summit. Meanwhile, Putin's friendship with former President Donald Trump continues to be a highly contentious topic as private phone calls between the two often led to 45th POTUS being dubbed 'Kremlin Puppet' by the internet.

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This time, however, Putin looked devastated as he bid farewell to Zinichev, who reportedly was his emergencies minister and former personal bodyguard. Attending the open-casket funeral, the Russian president rested his head on Zinichev's coffin twice, with tears streaming down his face. Zinichev's body was reportedly draped in the country's tricolour flag. After Putin paid his respects to the departed hero, he went and sat with the minister's widow Natalya and son Denis at the ceremony. 

Vladimir Putin sitting next to Yevgeny Zinichev's wife Natalia at his funeral (Creative Commons)

The two times that Putin approached the coffin saw him bowing his head both the time before calling Zinichev's passing an “irreplaceable personal loss”. The former FSB deputy director reportedly died on Tuesday, September 7, and was commemorated by his politician pal as a man of “incredible inner strength, courage, and bravery”. Putin also awarded Zinichev a posthumous Hero of Russia award, which is the country’s highest honor. 

The Sun reports that some are of the opinion that Putin was actually grooming Zinichev as his eventual successor. Zinichev was reportedly a KGB operative like Putin and had seen a terrific rise under the president that saw him become a powerful executive on the Kremlin’s security council. He was reportedly trying to save documentary filmmaker Alexander Melnik, 63, who had fallen into the icy waters of the Arctic during a military drill on Tuesday, September 7. Melnik too died. 

The funeral of Yevgeny Zinichev (Creative Commons)

While the details surrounding Zinichev's death are still not completely public, Daily Mail reported that he died at or near the 90ft Kitabo-Oron waterfall at Putorana Reserve. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Arctic. According to official accounts, he was trying to save Melnik after he had slipped off an icy rock. Putin described the heartbreaking circumstances of Zinichev's death, saying the man died "while rescuing a life, he took risk without a second of doubt, and died while fulfilling his duty."

The Ministry of Emergencies announced Zinicchev's death through a statement, where they revealed: "We are sorry to inform you that while on duty saving a person's life in Norilsk during interagency exercises to protect the Arctic zone from emergencies…Yevgeny Zinichev was tragically killed." Russian news outlet RT's boss Margarita Simonyan said that Zinichev "and the cameraman stood at the edge of a ledge," adding: "The cameraman slipped and fell into the water. There were many eyewitnesses - no-one even had time to figure out what had happened, as Zinichev rushed into the water after a man who had fallen off and crashed against a protruding rock."

Some reports have also claimed that the rumored Putin successor died in a helicopter while he was being airlifted to a hospital from the scene of the accident.