NEW YORK — The Russian ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin, died in New York on Monday the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
He was 64 and died one day before his 65th birthday.
“The outstanding Russian diplomat died while he was in his current working role,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “We offer our condolences to the relatives of Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin.”
Deputy U.N. Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov tells The Associated Press that Churkin became ill in his office at Russia’s U.N. mission and was taken to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he died Monday.
Churkin had been Russia’s envoy at the United Nations for a little over a decade and was considered Moscow’s great champion at the U.N.
The cause of death wasn’t immediately known. Churkin had a reputation for an acute wit and sharp repartee especially with his American and Western counterparts.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said she was devastated by Churkin’s death. She called Churkin a deeply caring man who did all he could to bridge the differences between the U.S. and Russia.
Matthew Rycroft, the British ambassador to the UN, called Churkin’s death the loss of a “diplomatic giant.”