Russian President Vladimir Putin has named a former bodyguard to be the Kremlin’s emergency situations minister, after the last man to hold the post reportedly died falling down a waterfall.
Putin named Alexander Kurenkov, 49, to head up Moscow’s Emergency Situations and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters Ministry, Russian state-run news agency TASS reported Wednesday.
Kurenkov, like many Kremlin acolytes, is a veteran of the Russian state security apparatus.
Putin flack Dmitry Peskov told reporters Wednesday that Putin knows Kurenkov “well.”
The oddly named ministry is a prestigious one — it coordinates Russia’s response to all disasters, man-made or natural, and leadership is seen as a path to a position of influence within the Kremlin.
The role was once occupied by current Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
The previous head of the ministry, Yevgeny Zinichev, died under fishy circumstances, reportedly after diving from a waterfall in September while trying to save the life of Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Melnik.
British outlet the Daily Mail reported Wednesday that Putin was visibly distraught at Zinichev’s funeral last year, and hinted at speculation that the minister had been under consideration as Putin’s successor.