According to Russian Foreign Ministry, Churkin died unexpectedly in New York after being taken ill at work. Churkin died only a day before his 65th birthday, but the Russian Foreign Ministry did not provide additional details on the circumstances of his passing.
An unnamed US official said that Churkin had died of ‘an apparent heart attack’.
Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘was deeply upset by the news and had greatly valued Churkin’s professionalism and diplomatic talent’ Russian news agencies quoted an announcement from the Kremlin.
Churkin served as Russia’s permanent ambassador to the UN from 2006. His deputy, Pyotr Ilyichev, said:
The loss sustained by Russia is grave and irreplaceable.
Ambassador Churkin remained at his work post until the last minute. He devoted his whole life to defending the interests of Russia and was to be found on the very front lines and in the most stressful posts.
A steadfast defender of Russian foreign policy, Churkin was known for his verbal clashes with representatives of Western countries in the UN Security Council.
Churkin’s colleagues in the UN offered their condolences, including current US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley and her predecessor, Samantha Power.
“In my short time at the United Nations, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin showed himself to be a gracious colleague.” Haley said in a statement. French ambassador to the UN, Francois Delattre, said that Churkin was “one of the most talented diplomats I have ever met.”
Churkin also served as deputy Russian Foreign Minister and ambassador to Belgium and Canada. He was born in Moscow and enjoyed a short acting career before attending Moscow Institute of International Relations, after which he worked as a career diplomat.