Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, has died in New York, the Russian foreign ministry has said.
It gave few details on the circumstances surrounding his death but offered condolences to his relatives and said the diplomat had died a day before his 65th birthday.
“The outstanding Russian diplomat passed away at his work post,” it added.
Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary-general’s office, said: “He has been such a regular presence here that I am actually quite stunned. Our thoughts go to his family, to his friends and to his government.”
Churkin was a pugnacious defender of Russian policy, notably its intensive bombing of the Syrian city of Aleppo last year against rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.
When then-US envoy to the UN Samantha Power accused Syria, Russia and Iran last year of bearing responsibility for atrocities there, Churkin said she was acting like Mother Teresa, and forgetting the United States’ track record in the Middle East.