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Vitaly Churkin Passing Marked by Guterres, After Haley, UNSC, Stood for Sovereignty

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 20 – Vitaly Churkin, long time Russian Ambassador to the UN, died on Monday morning while working, the day before his 65th birthday.

After 8 pm, US Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued this statement: "Secretary-General’s statement on the death of Ambassador Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin

I have just returned to New York and have learned with shock and sadness of the news of the sudden passing of Ambassador Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin, who was an outstanding diplomat.

Ambassador Churkin served the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation with distinction through some of the most challenging and momentous periods of recent history.

In 2006, he was appointed as the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations.  For more than a decade, Ambassador Churkin was a forceful presence on the Security Council.

Ambassador Churkin was a uniquely skilled diplomat, a powerful orator with great wit, and a man of many talents and interests.

Although we served together for a short time, I greatly appreciated the opportunity to work with him and will deeply miss his insights, skills and friendship.  I pay tribute to his contributions to the United Nations and offer my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones, and to the Government and people of the Russian Federation."

Back at 2 pm, US Ambassador Nikki Haley issued a statement: "In my short time at the United Nations, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin showed himself to be a gracious colleague. We did not always see things the same way, but he unquestionably advocated his country's positions with great skill. We send our prayers and heartfelt condolences to lift up his family and to the Russian people."

The UN Security Council by six pm agreed to a Press Statement: "The members of the Security Council were deeply saddened to learn of the death of Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, prominent Russian diplomat and Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, on February 20, 2017.

The members of the Security Council mourned for the Ambassador who has spent more than forty years at the Russian Diplomatic Service, has headed Russian Mission to the UN for more than a decade and would have turned 65 on February 21, 2017.

The members of the Security Council expressed their deep condolences to the family of the Ambassador, the Government and the people of the Russian Federation."

  UN President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson told the press that there will be a GA session to commemorate Churkin, whom he said stood out in his willingness to meet with smaller countries.

  Then while a Russian TV crew waited for quotes from this speaker about Churkin, staff whisked him upstairs to Al Jazeera, which asked among other things about Churkin blocking action on Syria.

  Online condolences poured in, back from the UK's Mark Lyall Grant (and Samantha Power), from Israel and Palestine, back to back. Periscope here.

  Churkin's advocacy in the UN Security Council ranged from deriding US Ambassador Samantha Power as a Mother Theresa wannabe, back to asking if then US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad's earpiece was working, during a late night Council meeting about Abhazia, South Ossetia and Georgia.

 Here's video of Churkin on December 30, 2016, Inner City Press asking him about Syria and Libya.

  On Africa, for example, Churkin told Inner City Press that there shouldn't be a vote on Eritrea sanctions until that country's president was allowed to address the Security Council. Churkin spoke at length with Inner City Press, recounting that "we had some people working on the sanctions resolution, on and off... All of the sudden last night we were told the sponsors were moving the resolution in blue, voting... today."

As Inner City Press exclusively reported [then] US Ambassador Susan Rice said the vote should take place Wednesday since Gabon, Nigeria and the regional IGAD group want the sanctions.

  Churkin disagreed, saying "there is a 48 hour rule.. but at least 24 hours" between putting a text into blue and voting on it. He also noted that "more than a month ago, the president of Eritrea asked to address the Security Council. We believe it is his right under the UN Charter."

 On the other hand, on February 20 after Churkin's death, a diplomat told Inner City Press of Churkin being nice, in Security Council closed door consultations, with Susan Rice and her child, during hair braiding.

 Here is Periscope video of Churkin speaking, about Syria, on the steps outside the UN Security Council earlier this year.

  That was Churkin, rest in peace. Watch this site.


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