Vitaly Churkin, who served as Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations since 2006, “died suddenly” in New York, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced.
The announcement “of the untimely passing away of Ambassador Vitaly Churkin this morning” was met with shock when it was delivered during a session at the UN headquarters.
“He was a dear colleague of all of us, a deeply committed diplomat of his country and one of the finest people we have known,” a UN official who delivered the news to her colleagues said.
The moment of silence in Churkin’s memory was announced at the UN.
President Putin has expressed his condolences to Churkin’s family and to all Russian diplomats.
“He was an outstanding person. He was brilliant, bright, a great diplomat of our age,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told RT, adding that the news of Churkin’s death was “completely shocking.”
Churkin fell ill in his office at Russia’s UN mission and was taken to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he died Monday, AP reported, citing Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov. The cause of death wasn’t immediately known, the agency reported.
“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,” Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary-general’s office said, as quoted by Reuters.
Churkin’s former colleague, the former US ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, wrote on Twitter she was “devastated” by the news, calling Churkin a “diplomatic maestro [and] deeply caring man who did all he [could] to bridge” the differences between the two powerful nations.