Russian Envoy to UN Unexpectedly Dead at 64

By Faye Higbee

They say things come in threes -the Russian Envoy to the UN died on Feb 20 from a “cardiac incident.” In December, a Turkish police officer shouted “allahu akbar” and “remember Aleppo” then gunned down the Russian ambassador to Turkey. Then there was the top Russian diplomat found dead in his apartment in Athens back in January. For those counting, that’s 3 in the last three months.

Vitaly Churkin was at the Russian Embassy on Monday when he “experienced a cardiac condition.”  He had been their envoy to the UN since 2006. He was the longest serving member on the UN Security Council. He was also noted for “sharp wit.” Sharp as in scathing comebacks.

Vladimir Putin signed an order to posthumously award Churkin the “Order of Courage” medal for his “dedication, perseverance, and high professionalism.”

Fox reported,

Among many other issues, he had recently made Russia’s views heard on the conflict in close ally Syria, sparring with diplomats from the U.S. and other Western countries over whether to impose sanctions or take action to end the conflict in Syria.

President Vladimir Putin had been notified of the death, according to the state news agency TASS.

“The president was grieved to learn about the death of Vitaly Churkin. The head of state highly estimated Churkin’s professionalism and diplomatic talents,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the agency.

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

Churkin was noted for tongue-in-cheek, pointed responses to Western nations, and for his ferocious defense of his native Russia. Yet he was well-respected, and other diplomats said that he had worked to mitigate the differences between nations.

Examples:

When Samantha Power met with the activist Rock group “Pussy Riot” after some of them were arrested after a performance at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in 2012:

“And she has not joined them herself? Maybe they can organize a world tour: St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.”

Or this one when Ms. Power spoke about the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo:

“The speech by the US Representative is particularly strange to me: she spoke as if she were Mother Theresa herself…Please, remember which country you represent. Please, remember the track record of your own country.”

Then there was this rather harsh response when another  Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator spoke about the situation in Aleppo:

“If we wanted to hear a sermon, we would go to church. If we wanted to hear poetry, we would go to a theater… Give us one fact, please, or leave this kind of storytelling for the novel you may well write later.”

Sharp, pointed. And people still seemed to like him.