Jump for it Russian governor draws criticism for forcing firefighter to leap for keys to new fire-engine
Update: Mikhail Ignatiev has been fired.
Mikhail Ignatiev, the head of Russia’s Chuvashia Republic, is facing criticism in Moscow after he forced a firefighter at an official ceremony in Cheboksary to leap for the keys to a new fire-engine. United Russia (Ignatiev’s political party) says it’s looking into the matter as a potential violation of his duties as governor.
The incident took place on January 23 and, unfortunately for Ignatiev, it was recorded on video. Together with the head of the local Emergency Response Department and Chuvashia’s civil defense minister, the governor participated in a review of the city’s rescue equipment. Part of the event included a ceremonial presentation of the keys to a fleet of new fire-engines. When handing over the keys to one of the new vehicles, Ignatiev approached an emergency worker about a foot shorter than he is and held the keys overhead, out of reach, forcing the firefighter to leap several times to grab them.
Spokespeople for the governor insist that Ignatiev was only joking and say the gesture was not offensive. “Mikhail Ignatiev and this officer go way back. The whole situation was good-spirited,” says a representative. According to the governor’s press secretary, Oleg Sidorov, “It was just friends screwing around. They were having fun. It wasn’t an insult. Everyone smiled afterward.”
Despite these apparently good vibes, the incident has provoked a negative response in Moscow, thanks to the media’s coverage of Ignatiev’s antics. Federal Emergency Management Agency head Evgeny Zinichev reportedly said the governor’s behavior is “unacceptable” for such a senior official.
United Russia General Council Secretary Andrey Turchak says the party will consider expelling Ignatiev and study his behavior for compliance with the duties of the governor’s office. According to Evgeny Revenko, one of Turchak’s deputies, United Russia’s ethics commission will review the issue on January 27. “If this was an attempt at a joke, it’s not funny. This scene of ‘keep-away’ where a FEMA major has to jump around is a cause for shock and disgust,” Revenko says.
The incident with the firetruck keys marks Ignatiev’s second appearance in Russian news headlines in the past week. On January 18, while delivering a speech in honor of National Press Day, the governor advocated “wiping out” (mochit’) journalists and bloggers who criticize the state authorities. After the outburst drew the media’s attention, Ignatiev’s press service claimed that he actually meant the public should “get to the bottom” of how opposition journalists earn money for reporting falsehoods.
Translation by Kevin Rothrock