Vitaly Churkin

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Person.png Vitaly Churkin  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Amb Vitaly I. Churkin (cropped).jpg
BornВита́лий Ива́нович Чу́ркин
21 February 1952
Moscow, Soviet Union
Died20 February 2017 (Age 64)
New York City, U.S.
Cause of death
"heart attack"
Alma materMoscow State Institute of International Relations, Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union
Russian Un Ambassador who died of what officially was a heart failure, at a time when there was a lot of Western diplomatic pressure on Russia and several other diplomats had died in a short period of time.

Employment.png Ambassador of Russia to the United Nations Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
1 May 2006 - 20 February 2017

Employment.png Ambassador of Russia to Belgium Wikipedia-icon.png

In office
3 October 1994 - 25 February 1998

Employment.png Ambassador of Russia to Canada

In office
23 August 1998 - 5 June 2003

Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin was a Russian diplomat who served as Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2006 until his death in 2017. He died of what officially was a heart failure, at a time when there was a lot of Western diplomatic pressure on Russia and several other Russian diplomats had died in a short period of time.

Previously he was Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (2003–2006), Ambassador to Canada (1998–2003), Ambassador to Belgium and Liaison Ambassador to NATO and WEU (1994–1998), Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation to the talks on Former Yugoslavia (1992–1994), Director of the Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR/Russian Federation (1990–1992). Churkin was fluent in English, French and Mongolian.


Churkin died in New York City on 20 February 2017, the eve of his 65th birthday.[1] The immediate cause was heart failure, according to Russian diplomat Sergei Ordzhonikidze.[2] The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that Churkin died while at work and expressed condolences to Churkin's family. India's Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, also expressed his condolences, calling Churkin a "friend" and a "stalwart diplomat".[3] Former President Barack Obama's UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, tweeted that she was "devastated" and described Churkin as a "diplomatic maestro" who did all he could to bridge U.S.-Russia differences. Britain's ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, tweeted that he was "absolutely devastated", describing Churkin as "a diplomatic giant & wonderful character".[4]

On 21 February 2017, the New York City Medical Examiner's Office released the preliminary results of an autopsy performed on Churkin, which states that the cause of death needed further study, which often indicates the need for toxicology tests.[5] A gag order pursuant to a request of the U.S. State Department and the United States Mission to the United Nations suppressed public disclosure of the cause and manner of death, citing Churkin's posthumous diplomatic immunity; Russia maintained that the information was private and that disclosing details of the autopsy results could hurt his reputation.[6][7] Churkin was posthumously awarded the Russian Order of Courage on 21 February 2017[8] and the Order of the Serbian Flag 1st class.[9]

Churkin was the fifth Russian diplomat posted abroad to die unexpectedly, in a remarkably similar fashion, since November 2016, the first such death having occurred on the morning of the U.S. presidential election, 8 November 2016, inside the Russian consulate in NYC.[10][11][12]

The pattern was followed by a sudden death of Russian ambassador to Sudan Migayas Shirinskiy in the capital Khartoum in August 2017.[13] Hours after Shirinskiy's death, Russia's government-owned news agency TASS published a list of names and brief biographies of senior Russian diplomats (naming five), who had died "of natural causes" "in the past two years" (in fact, since 30 May 2016, the day when Russian Chargés d'affaires ad interim to Ukraine Andrei Vorobyov, aged 57, died suddenly in Moscow), that included Churkin.[14] His death was likewise cited in a list published in early May 2017 by USA Today — as one in a series of "dozens of high-profile" Russians' deaths, such as GRU chief Igor Sergun's (January 2016), in "the past three years in Russia and abroad in suspicious circumstances".[15]

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