Rus­sian envoy pas­sion­ate voice for his coun­try

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD -

NEW YORK — Rus­sia’s am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, a veteran diplo­mat known as a po­tent and per­son­able voice for his coun­try’s in­ter­ests as he sparred with his Western coun­ter­parts, died sud­denly af­ter fall­ing ill Mon­day in his of­fice at the mis­sion.

Vi­taly Churkin, 64, was taken to a hos­pi­tal in New York, where he died, Rus­sia’s deputy UN am­bas­sador, Vladimir Safronkov, told The As­so­ci­ated Press. His cause of death wasn’t im­me­di­ately known.

He had been Rus­sia’s envoy at the United Na­tions since 2006 and was con­sid­ered Moscow’s great cham­pion at the UN. Diplo­matic col­leagues from around the world mourned Churkin as a pow­er­ful and pas­sion­ate voice for his na­tion, with both a deep knowl­edge of diplo­macy and a large and colour­ful per­son­al­ity. He was the longest­serv­ing mem­ber of the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, the UN’s most pow­er­ful body.

He was am­bas­sador to Canada from 1998 to 2003.

Among other is­sues, he re­cently made Rus­sia’s views heard on the con­flict in Syria, spar­ring with diplo­mats from the U.S. and other Western coun­tries over whether to im­pose sanc­tions or take ac­tion to end the con­flict. Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin praised Churkin’s pro­fes­sion­al­ism and diplo­macy, ac­cord­ing to the state news agency TASS.

“The pres­i­dent was grieved to learn about the death of Vi­taly Churkin,” spokesper­son Dmitry Peskov said, ac­cord­ing to the agency.

Rus­sia’s For­eign Min­istry called Churkin an “out­stand­ing” diplo­mat and ex­pressed con­do­lences to his friends and fam­ily. Spokesper­son Maria Zakharova said in a Face­book post that Churkin was “an ex­tra­or­di­nary per­son. A bright man. We have lost a dear one.”

SETH WENIG, AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Am­bas­sador Vi­taly Churkin died sud­denly in New York City on Mon­day.

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