Distraught Vladimir Putin sobbed at the funeral of a close friend who died trying to save a man's life in an Arctic drill. Putin was visibly distressed as he paid his respects today to the open coffin of his emergencies minister - and former personal bodyguard - who died on Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin placed his head twice on the open coffin of Yevgeny Zinichev, 55, wrapped in the country's flag. At the minister's burial, Putin sat alongside widow Natalya and son Denis. He approached the open coffin twice, lowering his head each time, and went away distressed.

Putin mourns the death of his long-time friend Minister Yevgeny Zinichev

Putin has described Zinichev, a former FSB deputy director, as a man of tremendous inner strength, tenacity, and bravery. He has given Zinichev the country's highest accolade, the Hero of Russia title, deceased. Some speculate that Putin was grooming Zinichev, a former KGB officer like him, to be his ultimate successor. He'd risen quickly under Putin and was lately slated for a new prominent position on the Kremlin's security council, as per Daily Mail.

In 2018, Zinichev was appointed as the Minister of Emergency Situations of Russia. His predecessor resigned shortly after a huge fire in a Siberian retail mall killed more than 60 people, sending shockwaves across the country.

Zinichev served as interim governor of Russia's westernmost Kaliningrad region for two months in 2016. He had been a member of President Vladimir Putin's security detail for a long time before then.

Per MIRROR, Putin was also in Siberia and was notified of the death of a high-ranking member of his ministry. Zinichev served as deputy director of the Federal Security Service counterintelligence department and was a former KGB and FSB officer.

He was formerly the governor of the Kaliningrad area, and he was born in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, like Putin. Dudinka Arctic Search and Rescue team took part in the training. Zinichev served as Putin's adjutant from 2006 to 2015.

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Zinichev is speculated as Putin's successor

Some speculated that the Kremlin leader was grooming him as a future presidential successor after his remarkable career. In Russia, the job of the emergencies minister is viewed as a high-profile action man role. Putin sent Zinichev's wife and family his heartfelt sympathies.

On Wednesday, Russia's Emergency Situations Minister and former long-time bodyguard, Yevgeny Zinichev, was conducting emergency exercises in the Arctic town of Norilsk with a press pool. In a brief statement, his ministry stated the 55-year-old officer died tragically while attempting to save a person's life during emergency exercises in the Arctic.

The other victim was eventually identified as Alexander Melnik, a Russian filmmaker known for his environmental movies. President Putin characterized Zinichev's death as an "irreparable personal loss" in an unusually emotional message to Zinichev's family posted by the Kremlin, The Daily Telegraph reported.

Zinichev perished along with the man who was filming the exercises when he went down a cliff, according to Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russia's RT TV station. Official accounts did not specify where the men died, leaving onlookers perplexed by the depiction of the cameraman plunging over a cliff into the ocean although Norilsk has neither hills nor mountains.

According to the Siberian news website Tayga.info, Putin's former bodyguard and the director were out of town in the scenic Putorana Mountains east of Norilsk when they slid over a cliff into the lake below, according to an unidentified source.

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