A longtime Russian ambassador to the United Nation, Vitaly Churkin, died of cardiac arrest at 9:30am on Monday, according to reports from NYPD and Russian officials.
His death occurred at the Russian Mission to the U.N., a location on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, reports say.
“A prominent Russian diplomat has passed away while at work. We’d like to express our sincere condolences to Vitaly Churkin’s family,” Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement available on its official website.
He was pronounced dead at New York Presbyterian Hospital, a report from ABC News quotes the NYPD as saying.
This career diplomat who has been described as an extraordinary ambassador, died at the age of 64. He would have celebrated his 65th birthday today 21 February.
Churkin held position as Director, Information Department (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation).
He was Russia’s Ambassador to Belgium from 1994 to 1998, and the Ambassador to Canada from 1998 to 2003.
He also served as a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, and was Deputy Foreign Minister from 1992 to 1994.
Churkin was known as a master of UN procedure, a probable reason he served the organization between since 2006. He played prominent roles in the debates over Iran, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine, Georgia and Crimea.
He was a master of languages – English, French, Russian and Mongolian.
He’s survived by his wife and children.
Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative, Petr Iliichev, said he was happy to have worked with Churkin until death.
“The loss that Russia has suffered is irreplaceable. Ambassador Churkin kept working till the very last moment.
“He dedicated all his life to protecting Russia’s interests abroad. He was [always] at the front line, taking the most challenging appointments,” Iliichev said.
A rep to the UN Secretary-General Farhan Haq expressed sorrow at the loss of this rare gem, adding that the UN was shocked by his untimely departure.
“We mourn ambassador Churkin, he’s been such a regular presence here that I’m actually quite stunned and our thoughts go to his family and his government,” the statement reads.
“A great diplomat. An extraordinary personality. A brilliant man. We’ve lost a person very dear to us,” Maria Zakharova, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, shared her grief through a Facebook post.
Putin expressed his condolences to the family of late diplomat, as well as to his colleagues in the Foreign Ministry.
“It is with deep sorrow that Russian President Vladimir Putin learned about the death of Vitaly Churkin,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday. He added that Putin held Churkin’s professionalism and diplomatic talent in high regard.
Following the news of the ambassador’s death, the UN began its scheduled meeting with a moment of silence to honor Churkin’s memory.
The late ambassador’s colleagues took to Twitter to express their condolences as well.
“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
“Absolutely devastated to hear that my friend & colleague Vitaly Churkin has died. A diplomatic giant & wonderful character. RIP.”
— Matthew Rycroft (@MatthewRycroft1) February 20, 2017