Mon | Jun 26, 2017

Russia's ambassador to United Nations dies in NYC at 64

Published:Tuesday | February 21, 2017 | 2:00 AM
In this Thursday, February 2, 2017, photo, Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, addresses a Security Council meeting at the United Nations.

NEW YORK (AP):

Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died suddenly after falling ill on Monday in his office at the mission, Russian officials said.

Churkin, 64, was rushed 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.

Churkin had been Russia's envoy at the United Nations since 2006 and was considered Moscow's great champion at the UN He had a reputation for an acute wit and sharp repartee, especially with his American and Western counterparts. He was currently the longest-serving member of the Security Council, the UN's most powerful body.

Among many other issues, he had recently made Russia's views heard on the conflict in close ally Syria, sparring with diplomats from the US 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".

His death, the day before his 65th birthday, stunned officials at the UN's headquarters.