10 years at the UN: what would you remember Vitaly Churkin


Death of the post

Vitaly Churkin died in new York, “working post” the day before your 65th birthday, announced the Ministry of foreign Affairs in the evening of 20 February. The official cause of death was not disclosed. According to sources, the New York Post, the diplomat was having a heart attack is placed in the Presbyterian hospital, where he died.

The official representative of Russian foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova called Churkin “a great diplomat” and “extraordinary personality”. “We have lost the native person,” she said.

Vitaly Churkin worked on the post of permanent representative of Russia to the UN from April 2006. He was replaced by Sergei Lavrov, who moved to the post of Minister of foreign Affairs, and before that was Ambassador for ten years.

“All his life he devoted to the protection of the interests of Russia, was on the front lines and the most strenuous positions,” said first Deputy permanent representative of Russia to the UN, Peter Ilichev. As told a source in the Ministry of foreign Affairs, Il’ichev will exercise the functions of the permanent representative of Russia to the UN before the adoption of the Kremlin’s decision on the successor to Churkin. “He will be, as during the absence of the Ambassador, during travel, to act in his place at meetings of the Security Council,” — said the source.

The official representative of the UN Secretary-General Farhan Haq said that the UN is shocked by the sad news of the death of Vitaly Churkin and expressed on behalf of the world organization condolences to the family and friends of the Russian diplomat. He noted that the tragedy will not affect the further cooperation in the framework of the world organization, as the large Russian contingent in the UN represented by experienced diplomats.

The position of permanent representative of the country in UN — unique, said the chief editor of the magazine “Russia in global politics” Fyodor Lukyanov. According to him, this is the only position where the diplomat should know everything: the foreign Ministry in any capacity has a direction, thematic or regional division, and representative to the UN is the man who should know topics from climate change to human trafficking, it is not surprising that the predecessor Churkin became a Minister. In addition, this position public, especially in the crisis years, it is not enough to possess an Arsenal of secret negotiations, it is necessary to publicly defend the position, says Lukyanov.

Major decisions on how to vote on resolutions of the UN security Council, of course, accepted in Moscow at the highest level, in such cases, permanent representative to prove itself difficult, but when it comes to the creation of a coalition on various issues, his diplomatic skills are vital, says the CEO of the Russian Council on international Affairs Andrey Kortunov.

Master of crisis

At the time of the UN Churkin had several serious crises in relations between Russia and the West: the Georgian in 2008, the events of the “Arab spring”, including the crisis in and around Libya in 2011 and continuing with the same year, the Syrian, the events in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. The President of Russia Vladimir Putin highly appreciated the professionalism and diplomatic skill Churkin, said TASS press Secretary of the President Dmitry Peskov.

Churkin, defended Moscow’s position in 2008, when the West accused Russia of provoking a military conflict in South Ossetia. “Of the 120-thousand population of more than a quarter became refugees. It’s ethnic cleansing or not? 2 killed thousands of civilians. How many need to kill to call this ethnic cleansing?”, he said on 10 August 2008. Commenting on the speech of the President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili at the General Assembly 2013, Churkin said: “this time it wasn’t even a speech but a set of crazy fabrications bore not just anti-Russian but Russophobic and anti-Orthodox character. Luckily for Georgian people, near the sunset of his political career of a man whose mental state requires professional evaluation”.

He resorted to the unconventional diplomat forms of communication. So the browser CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who said that Churkin did not want to give her an interview and to leave the “comfort zone”, he replied in the form of “open letter”. “If You’re implying that I don’t want to answer uncomfortable questions, you have to remember that I spoke in the National Cathedral of Washington in 1983, two weeks after it was shot down South Korean airliner, and then gave testimony to the U.S. Congress in may 1986 after the Chernobyl accident, not to mention the hundreds of other media appearances and live. So I can not explain to anyone what it means to “get out of the comfort zone”.

Responding to the UK’s permanent representative to the UN Matthew Rycroft, who said that Russia abuses the privileges of a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Churkin said: “stop interfering in the Affairs of other sovereign States, leave these colonial habits, leave the world alone and then the situation will be improved in many regions of the world” (quoted by TASS).

“Absolutely devastated by the news that my friend and colleague Vitaly Churkin had died. He was a diplomatic giant and wonderful people,” reacted to the death of the opponent Raycroft in his Twitter.

Churkin was one of rodonachalniki a new style of public diplomacy, said Andrei Kortunov. Along with high professionalism, he had a quick reaction, sense of humor, idiomatic language, he was a media star, which is rare for a diplomat, he was the face of Russia, says the expert. A tough stance is easy to take, but to apply it with such artistry is a great skill, so he was respected as a diplomat of the new formation, he was always so agile and dynamic, easily went on contact with different audience, reminds Kortunov.

Prized by the opponents

“Churkin was an excellent diplomat, incredibly skilled at his job,” said former U.S. Ambassador to Russia, Stanford University Professor Michael McFaul. According to him, Churkin extremely professionally and efficiently carry out the foreign policy of Russia. Despite the contradictions between Russia and the Obama administration of the Russian permanent representative enjoyed “great respect the American diplomatic community,” said McFaul. “He was a dangerous opponent, but always (remained) friend,” wrote on Twitter of the former permanent US representative to the UN Susan rice.

Her French colleague françois Delattre noted that Churkin was “one of the most talented diplomats,” he had met. In turn, the head of representation of EU in Russia Vygaudas Usackas Churkin called “flying high”.

Representing until January 2017 to the UN Samantha Power wrote in his Twitter that Churkin had “diplomatic Maestro and deeply caring person” who did everything possible to overcome the contradictions between Russia and the United States. Power became Ambassador to the UN in August 2013, shortly before the outbreak of the Ukrainian crisis and the serious deterioration of Russian-American relations.

“For the brief time I spent at the UN, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin showed himself to be a courteous colleague. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but he, of course, very ably defended the position of his country,” — said the current U.S. permanent representative to the UN, Nikki Haley (quoted by TASS). Churkin, they worked together a little over three weeks.

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