Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations died suddenly on the morning of February 20. The New York Post first reported that Vitaly Churkin, 64, had suffered a heart attack at the Russian consulate on East 67th street in Manhattan. The report adds that Churkin was unconscious when paramedics arrived at the location. He had been serving as the Russia’s representative to the United Nations since 2006. He would have turned 65 on February 21.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Churkin Was Angry in October 2016 That the United Nations Referred to Donald Trump as a ‘Demagogue’
Churkin last made headlines in October 2016 when he protested a speech by the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. The Daily Telegraph reported that Churkin was unhappy that Zeid mentioned U.S. President Donald Trump when talking about “demagogues” in world politics. The ambassador said at the time, “Prince Zeid is overstepping his limits from time to time and we’re unhappy about it.”
During his speech, Zeid had said, “Less than 150 miles away from where I speak, a front-running candidate to be president of this country declared, just a few months ago, his enthusiastic support for torture. In what may be a crucial election for leadership of this country later this year, we have seen a full-frontal attack – disguised as courageous taboo-busting – on some fundamental, hard-won tenets of decency and social cohesion that have come to be accepted by American society.” The commissioner was referring to a speech that Trump gave in Ohio in where he endorsed the use of torture methods including waterboarding.
At the time of Churkin’s death, UN spokesman Fahan Haq said, “We mourn Ambassador Churkin. He has been such a regular presence here that I’m actually quite stunned.”
2. Churkin Believed ‘Vladimir Putin Is an Extremely Popular Leader in the United States’
In a propagandist piece on Russia’s United Nations website, Churkin admonished at President Barack Obama’s comparison of Putin and Saddam Hussein. Churkin said, ” President Putin is an extremely popular leader in the United States, and there is a lot of argument of course about his role in the world and in Russia, so it shouldn’t be surprising.” Trump was not mentioned in the piece other than to endorse the fact that the U.S. president had given an interview with Russia Today.
3. He Believed That Allegations of Russian Involvement in the Downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 Were ‘False’
Arguably the biggest diplomatic crisis of Churkin’s United Nations career was the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. It had long been alleged that Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels had shot the plane down using Russian military hardware. Churkin described such allegations as “false.” He went on to veto a resolution that would have seen an international tribunal be set up into the tragedy. In total, 298 people died in the crash.
4. His Daughter Serves as a Reporter for the Putin-Backed Russia Today News Network
Churkin’s daughter is Russia Today’s London correspondent, Anastasia Churkina. According to her Twitter bio, Churkina describes herself as an “Emmy nominee, New York Festivals finalist. Restless globetrotting adventurer. News decipherer.”
Churkina’s official profile on RT’s website says that prior to being based in London, Churkina worked in New York City, where her father has lived since 2006. She is a law graduate from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and is fluent in English, Russian, French, Spanish and Italian.
Two weeks prior to his passing, her father had been interviewed on the network. The interviewer noted that Churkin “looked in good health and very energetic during the interview.”
5. Churkin Is Not the Russian Ambassador Who Is Accused in the Gen. Flynn Scandal
Churkin was not the Russian Ambassador to the United States and at the time of writing is not linked to the General Michael Flynn scandal. Flynn is accused of being in contact with the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, who is based in Washington D.C. The pair are thought to have discussed a reducing in the U.S. led sanctions against Russia.