It was with great dismay and sadness that we received the news about the sudden death of the Ambassador of the Russian Federation, Vitaly Churkin.
Ambassador Churkin was a “landmark figure” at the United Nations. His long tenure as Permanent Representative of Russia; his profound knowledge of complex UN dossiers and processes; his sharp intellect and dry wit made him an outstanding diplomat and a very effective representative of his country.
One of Ambassador Churkin’s core strengths was his ability to connect with his counterparts at a personal level. No matter how heated the debate in some formal settings became, afterwards, he always reached out to those with whom he disagreed. Vitaly Churkin never forgot there is a difference between the official positions and talking points and the private person behind the statements. Diplomacy is to a large extent defined and driven by the interaction between people. Ambassador Churkin understood and respected this idea very well.
Since taking his post in 2006, Ambassador Churkin’s 11-year contribution has left an indelible mark on the Security Council and its work. He was a staunch, loyal defender of his country’s foreign policy, and his firm and vocal stance on many of the issues negotiated by the Security Council and General Assembly was a source of admiration and – at times – of frustration to other members.
In the world of diplomacy, there is no greater compliment than to be respected by those with whom one disagrees. Ambassador Churkin earned this respect from everyone, regardless of policy or political differences. Members of the Western European and Other Group will remember Vitaly Churkin for his skillful diplomacy, distinctive voice on the Security Council and formidable personal charm.
We would like to convey our sincere condolences to Mrs. Irina Churkina, their children and our colleagues at the Russian mission as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow.
The sudden death of our colleague on the eve of his birthday – cutting short a life still full of plans and projects – will leave a huge gap on the Security Council, the General Assembly and in the wider community of Permanent Representatives. May he rest in peace.