A total of 64 workers were underground when the fire broke out in a shaft at the Vershino-Darsunsky mine in the Chita Region, five time zones east of the capital, at 8:15 a.m. Moscow time (4:15 a.m. GMT) Thursday. In all, 39 miners were rescued during a search and rescue operation at a depth of between 85 (280 feet) and 135 meters (425ft), the ministry said.
The rescuers are currently carrying out work to lift the bodies of the four miners to the surface, the ministry said.
Mines in the former Soviet Union have endured a poor safety record in the last fifteen years. Three miners were killed in a blast in another Siberian shaft in August and six men lost their lives in an accident at a Ukrainian pit in the same month.
Carbon monoxide poisoning was the cause of the miners' death, the ministry said after receiving the results of a forensic study of their bodies.