Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations for the past decade, has died in New York.
He reportedly suffered a heart attack at work, a day before his 65th birthday.
“He was a dear colleague of all of ours, a deeply-committed diplomat to his country and one of the finest people we have known,” said Lana Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the UN, before inviting her colleagues to a moment of silence.
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador, Dies at 64. https://t.co/tacUTZ5ztB— NYT (@NYT) February 20, 2017
Churkin unwaveringly defended Russian policy and the shelling of the Syrian city of Aleppo last year. Brushing off criticism, he told his US counterpart at the time to stop acting “as if she were Mother Teresa.”
“Please remember which country you represent. Remember your own country’s track record,” he told Samantha Power in December.
His war of words with his European and US colleagues became increasingly bitter in the final months of the Obama administration.
Churkin’s Western counterparts didn’t always agree with him, but they praised his brio and character. Tributes poured in from around the world, including from the US.
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin was “deeply upset” by his death and greatly valued his diplomatic talent.
Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general’s office, on Monday said: “He has been such a regular presence here that I am actually quite stunned. Our thoughts go to his family, to his friends and to his government.”
A minute of silence was held at an informal session of the UN’s General Assembly to remember Churkin.
Devastated by passing of Russian UN Amb Vitaly Churkin.Diplomatic maestro &deeply caring man who did all he cld to bridge US-RUS differences— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) February 20, 2017
Churkin in his own words
Absolutely devastated to hear that my friend & colleague Vitaly Churkin has died. A diplomatic giant & wonderful character. RIP— Matthew Rycroft (@MatthewRycroft1) February 20, 2017