Russia's UN envoy Vitaly Churkin dead at 64
Feb.21, Moscow: Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, who for years fended off Western criticism and defended Moscow's actions in Ukraine and Syria, has died in New York, aged 64.
Churkin had served as foreign ministry spokesman in the early 1990s and also as special envoy to the former Yugoslavia.
Growing up in Moscow, he dabbled in acting in his early teens, notably in two films about Soviet founding father Vladimir Lenin. He graduated from the prestigious Moscow Institute of International Relations and began his career at the foreign ministry as a translator before working at the Soviet embassy in Washington in the 1980s.
Given his long posting at the UN - previously held for a decade by Russia's current Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov - Churkin joked in a recent interview that his stint was surpassed only by the envoy from Turkmenistan. He is survived by his wife Irina, son Maxim and daughter Anastasiya.
Churkin collapsed while at work at the Russian mission to the United Nations on Monday morning and was rushed to a Manhattan hospital, apparently suffering from heart problems, diplomatic sources told AFP news agency.
In a statement announcing his death, the foreign ministry in Moscow described him as an "outstanding diplomat".
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said President Vladimir Putin "highly valued the professionalism and diplomatic talent of Vitaly Churkin" and offered condolences, Interfax reported
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova paid tribute, writing on Facebook: "A great diplomat. An extraordinary personality. An outstanding individual. We have lost someone very dear."
News of his death was met with shock at UN headquarters where Churkin, who would have turned 65 on Tuesday, had been a towering presence for a decade, reprots said.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Churkin had served "with distinction through some of the most challenging and momentous periods of recent history".
Guterres described him as a "forceful presence on the Security Council", a "uniquely skilled diplomat, a powerful orator with great wit and a man of many talents and interests".
Diplomats at a UN meeting observed a moment of silence and a tribute to him was planned at the Security Council on Tuesday.
Petr Iliichev, Russia's deputy UN ambassador, said Churkin was worked "until his last moments".
The Oslo Times International News Network