MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian Minister of Emergencies Yevgeny Zenichev died on Wednesday while trying to rescue a film director who fell into a river while filming an exercise in the Arctic Circle, the Russian Emergencies Ministry said.

Zenichev, 55, previously worked on President Vladimir Putin's personal insurance team, and - a close Putin ally - has headed the Emergencies Ministry since 2018, and at the time of his death in the remote city of Norilsk was overseeing large-scale training in the region.

The minister is one of the few prominent politicians who began their careers in the security apparatus, similar to the path taken by Putin himself as a former spy in the KGB.

"This is an irreparable personal loss for me, we have worked together for many years," Putin said in a condolence message released by the Kremlin.

The ministry said - in a statement - that Zinechev was killed while trying to save director Alexander Melnik, who came to the city to shoot a documentary about the Arctic Circle and the Northern Sea Route, and indicated that Melnik slipped on a wet rock and fell.

"Evgeny tried to catch Alexander and jumped after him, but unfortunately both of them died after falling from the edge of a high cliff into a mountain river," the ministry statement said.