Russia's Vladimir Putin fires regional chief who made firefighter jump for keys

A screenshot from the video in which a firefighter was made to jump for keys. SCREENSHOT: TWITTER

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday (Jan 29) sacked a regional chief who forced a firefighter to jump in the air to receive keys for new fire engines.

The head of the central Russian region of Chuvashiya, Mikhail Ignatyev, at a public ceremony last week dangled keys over the head of a uniformed officer in the emergency ministry, forcing him to jump up to take them.

After a video emerged on social media, Ignatyev's press service tried to play down the scandal, saying the men were friendly acquaintances.

But the emergency minister Yevgeny Zinichev criticised Ignatyev's behaviour as unethical.

"It's unacceptable for such a high-ranking official to behave in such a way," he was quoted as saying in a statement released by his press service.

He also said the firefighter behaved inappropriately by playing along, since he represents an "agency respected not only in our country but in the whole world."

Putin dismissed Ignatyev on the grounds that he had lost trust in him. He had held the post since 2010.

The announcement came a day after the ruling United Russia party excluded him, with ethics committee secretary Yevgeny Revenko saying: "If that was meant to be a joke, it wasn't funny."

Known for gaffes, Ignatyev once addressed then-prime minister Dmitry Medvedev by the wrong name during a televised meeting, calling him Vasily.

Earlier this month, he caused a scandal by apparently recommending killing journalists who praise life in Europe.

In a speech on Jan 13, he said such journalists "need to be rubbed out, as the ordinary folk say. They need to be rubbed out."

He later apologised, saying his words had been misinterpreted.

Putin appointed MP Oleg Nikolayev as acting head of Chuvashia pending elections of the new regional chief.

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