The Russian Foreign Ministry reports today that Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died suddenly today in New York. He died on Monday age 64, just one day before his 65th birthday.
CNN reports that Churkin had a cardiac arrest while at the Russian Mission on East 67th Street, per a U.S. law enforcement official. The ambassador was then taken to New York's Presbyterian Hospital, where he died.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said "the outstanding Russian diplomat died while he was in his current working role."
Devastated by passing of Russian UN Amb Vitaly Churkin.Diplomatic maestro &deeply caring man who did all he cld to bridge US-RUS differences
— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) February 20, 2017
Vitaly was a formidable adversary, but always a friend. My heartfelt condolences to his wife, Irina, his family and the Russian UN Mission https://t.co/hLx2bfnZlj
— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) February 20, 2017
A extraordinary colleague during my 5y in the UNSC. Abrasive, funny and technically impeccable. Sincere condolences. https://t.co/uAcmwuQyX7
— Gérard Araud (@GerardAraud) February 20, 2017
Reuters cites a U.S. government official, speaking anonymously, who says Churkin died of a heart attack.
A federal law enforcement official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that there appeared to be nothing unusual about the ambassador's death.
The New York Post quoted unnamed sources as saying Churkin had been rushed to a Manhattan hospital from the Russian embassy after falling ill with a cardiac condition.
President Vladimir Putin was deeply upset by the news and had greatly valued Churkin's professionalism and diplomatic talent, Russian news agencies quoted the Kremlin as saying.
Tass news agency quoted Churkin's deputy, Pyotr Ilyichev, as saying: "The loss sustained by Russia is grave and irreplaceable.
"Ambassador Churkin remained at his work post until the last minute. He devoted his whole life to defending the interests of Russia and was to be found on the very front lines and in the most stressful posts."
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Facebook: "Great diplomat. Extraordinary personality. Colorful man."
Churkin was a pugnacious defender of Russian policy, notably its intensive bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo last year to crush rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.