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Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin (Russian: Виталий Иванович Чуркин, IPA: [vʲɪˈtalʲɪj ɪˈvanəvʲɪtɕ ˈtɕurkʲɪn]; 21 February 1952 – 20 February 2017) was a Russian diplomat and former child actor.[1] Churkin served as Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2006 until his death in 2017.

Vitaly Churkin
MFA Paolo Gentiloni with Amb Vitaly I. Churkin, PR of the Russian Federation to the UN (cropped).jpg
Ambassador of Russia to the United Nations
In office
1 May 2006 – 20 February 2017
PresidentVladimir Putin
Dmitry Medvedev
Vladimir Putin
Preceded byAndrey Denisov
Succeeded byPyotr Ilichov (acting)
Vasily Nebenzya
Ambassador of Russia to Canada
In office
23 August 1998 – 5 June 2003
PresidentBoris Yeltsin
Vladimir Putin
Preceded byAlexander Belonogov
Succeeded byGeorgiy Mamedov
Ambassador of Russia to Belgium
In office
3 October 1994 – 25 February 1998
PresidentBoris Yeltsin
Preceded bySergey Kislyak
Succeeded byNikolay Afanasevsky
Personal details
Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin
Виталий Иванович Чуркин

(1952-02-21)21 February 1952
Moscow, Soviet Union
Died20 February 2017(2017-02-20) (aged 64)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materMoscow State Institute of International Relations
Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union

Previously he was Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (2003–2006), Ambassador to Canada (1998–2003), Ambassador to Belgium and Liaison Ambassador to NATO and WEU (1994–1998), Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation to the talks on Former Yugoslavia (1992–1994), Director of the Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR/Russian Federation (1990–1992). Churkin was fluent in English, French and Mongolian.

Early life and careerEdit

Vitaly Churkin as Kolya Yemelyanov and Mikhail Kuznetsov as Vladimir Lenin in the 1963 Soviet film Sinyaya Tetrad [Wikidata]

Churkin was born in Moscow. In 1963, at age 11, he played Kolya Yemelyanov in the Lev Kulidzhanov movie Sinyaya Tetrad [ru], about Vladimir Lenin. In 1964, he acted in a movie, Nol tri, about paramedics. In 1967, he played a peasant boy, Fedka, in Mark Donskoy's movie, A Mother's Heart, about Vladimir Lenin, and then he stopped his artistic career to concentrate on English language studies.[2]

He graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 1974, and began working for them then, and he received a PhD in History from the USSR Diplomatic Academy in 1981. Subsequently, he was Director of the Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation. He also served as a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, and he was Deputy Foreign Minister from 1992 to 1994.[3]

Churkin was Russia's Ambassador to Belgium from 1994 to 1998, and the Ambassador to Canada from 1998 to 2003. Subsequently, he served as Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2003 to 2006. He replaced Andrey Denisov as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations on 1 May 2006, when he presented his credentials to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. He was the Chairman of the Senior Officials of the Arctic Council.[4]

Chernobyl testimonyEdit

Churkin won some notoriety in 1986 when, as a 34-year-old second secretary, he was selected by Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin to testify before the United States Congress on the Chernobyl nuclear power station accident.[5] This was reported as the first time in history a Soviet official had testified before a Congressional committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.[6] The choice of Churkin, then a relatively junior diplomat, was due to his reputation as the most fluent English-speaker in the Soviet embassy; media reported he possessed "an array of English slang".[6] Churkin's performance led to his being parodied in Mark Alan Stamaty's Washingtoon, a political cartoon series in The Washington Post, as Vitaly "Charmyourpantsoff".[citation needed]

Actions as a United Nations RepresentativeEdit

Awarding the order "For Merit to the Fatherland" IV class. 20 February 2012
Barack Obama meets with Vladimir Putin, Vitaly Churkin and other Russian representatives to discuss Syria and ISIL, 29 September 2015


In 2008, during the Russo-Georgian War, Churkin proposed a draft resolution imposing a weapons embargo on Georgia. The draft was criticized by the United States who saw it as "a ploy to divert attention from the fact Moscow had yet to pull out of Georgian territory outside two breakaway regions". The draft was officially introduced on 9 September 2009, and no actions were taken on it.[7]


On 13 March 2014, Churkin was questioned by Arseniy Yatsenyuk on whether Crimea had a right to hold a referendum which would determine Crimea's status as a part of either Russia or Ukraine.[8]

On 20 March 2014, amid tension rising in Crimea, he responded to the CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour's criticism of him and his daughter, a Russia Today journalist Anastasia Churkina.[9]


On 25 June 2014 he commented on the first round of talks regarding the Iranian nuclear program, saying that the talks between the P5+1 states and Iran were successful. The talks were held by him and six other diplomats in Vienna from 16 to 20 June and he said that the second round would begin on 2 July and end thirteen days later.[10]


On 12 June 2014 he briefed on the crisis in Baghdad, Iraq, saying that there was no threat to his colleague Nickolay Mladenov, who is the head of the UN's political mission in that country. He also noted that the violence there erupts further north.[11]

Srebrenica massacreEdit

During the Yugoslav Wars—in the Srebrenica massacre—about 7,500 people were killed by Bosnian Serb troops in a span of eleven days.[12] It was later found to be an act of genocide by the International Court of Justice.[13] The UK sponsored a resolution which would condemn the genocide and commemorate the 20th anniversary of the massacre. The Russian Federation, after Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin,[14] was the only country on the security council that was against the resolution (China and three other countries abstained): Churkin issued a veto on his country's behalf at the UN Security Council on 8 July 2015.[15]

Career timelineEdit

  • 1974 – Graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations
  • 1974 – Joined the USSR Foreign Ministry
  • 1974–1979 – Staff member of the USSR delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
  • 1979–1982 – Third secretary, US desk, USSR Foreign Ministry
  • 1981 – PhD in history from the USSR Diplomatic Academy
  • 1982–1987 – Second, first secretary, USSR Embassy in Washington DC
  • 1985 – Undertook a speaking tour of United States universities invited by USGov
  • 1987–1989 – Staff member, International Department, CPSU Central Committee
  • 1989–1990 – Special adviser to the USSR Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • 1990–1991 – Director, Information Department, Spokesman of the USSR Foreign Ministry
  • 1992–1994 – Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation to the talks on Former Yugoslavia
  • 1994–1998 – Ambassador of Russia to Belgium, Liaison Ambassador to NATO and WEU
  • 1998–2003 – Ambassador of Russia to Canada
  • 2003 – April 2006 – Ambassador-at-Large, MFA, Chairman of Senior Arctic Officials, Arctic Council, Senior Official of Russia at the Barents/Euro-Arctic Council
  • 8 April 2006 – Permanent Representative of Russia to the United Nations, Representative of the Russian Federation at the UN Security Council Diplomatic rank — Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary (1990)


Churkin died in New York City on 20 February 2017, the eve of his 65th birthday.[16] The immediate cause was heart failure, according to Russian diplomat Sergei Ordzhonikidze.[17] The Russian Foreign Ministry noted that Churkin died while at work and expressed condolences to Churkin's family.[18] India's Permanent Representative to the UN, Syed Akbaruddin, also expressed his condolences, calling Churkin a "friend" and a "stalwart diplomat".[19] Former President Barack Obama's UN Ambassador, Samantha Power, tweeted that she was "devastated" and described Churkin as a "diplomatic maestro" who did all he could to bridge U.S.-Russia differences. Britain's ambassador to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, tweeted that he was "absolutely devastated", describing Churkin as "a diplomatic giant & wonderful character".[20]

On 21 February 2017 the New York City Medical Examiner's Office released the preliminary results of an autopsy performed on Churkin, which states that the cause of death needed further study, which often indicates the need for toxicology tests.[21] A gag order pursuant to a request of the U.S. State Department and the United States Mission to the United Nations suppressed public disclosure of the cause and manner of death, citing Churkin's posthumous diplomatic immunity; Russia maintained that the information was private and that disclosing details of the autopsy results could hurt his reputation.[22][23] Churkin was posthumously awarded the Russian Order of Courage on 21 February 2017[24] and the Order of the Serbian Flag 1st class.[25]

Vitaly Churkin was the 5th Russian diplomat posted abroad to die unexpectedly, in a remarkably similar fashion, since November 2016, the first such death having occurred on the morning of the U.S. presidential election, 8 November 2016, inside the Russian consulate in NYC, – a fact that caused conspiracy theorists to try to detect a pattern.[26][27][28] The apparent pattern was followed by a sudden death of Russian ambassador to Sudan Migayas Shirinskiy in the capital Khartoum in August 2017.[29] Hours after Shirinskiy's death, Russia's government-owned news agency TASS published a list of names and brief biographies of senior Russian diplomats (naming five), who had died ″of natural causes″ ″in the past two years″ (in fact, since 30 May 2016, the day when Russian Chargés d'affaires ad interim to Ukraine Andrei Vorobyov, aged 57, died suddenly in Moscow), that included Churkin.[30] His death was likewise cited in a list published in early May 2017 by USA Today — as one in a series of ″dozens of high-profile″ Russians′ deaths, such as GRU chief Igor Sergun′s (January 2016), in ″the past three years in Russia and abroad in suspicious circumstances″.[31]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ambassador Vitaly Churkin UN Russian Federation Biography". UN Russian Federation. Archived from the original on 21 February 2017. Retrieved 27 September 2016.
  2. ^ Roldugin, Oleg (14 April 2014). "Наш актер в ООН. Тайны биографии постпреда России Виталия Чуркина". Sobesednik (in Russian).
  3. ^ Умер Виталий Чуркин (in Russian)
  4. ^ Arctic Council Meeting of Senior Arctic Officials Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia October 12-14, 2005 MINUTES
  5. ^ Greenwald, John (12 May 1986). "Deadly Meltdown". Time. Archived from the original on 26 June 2014.
  6. ^ a b Weisskopf, Michael (2 May 1986). "Soviet Testifies on Capitol Hill, Thrust-and-Parry Reveals Few New Details of Accident". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ United Nations (2009). Report of the Security Council (1 August 2008 – 31 July 2009), Issue 2. p. 39. ISBN 9789218201409.
  8. ^ "Ukraine crisis: Russia tells UN it does not want war". BBC News Online. 13 March 2014. Archived from the original on 9 April 2014. Retrieved 5 July 2014.
  9. ^ "Дочь постпреда в ООН Виталия Чуркина оказалась в центре международного скандала" (in Russian). Moskovsky Komsomolets. Archived from the original on 22 March 2014.
  10. ^ "5+1 and Iran to hold talks in Vienna". Voice of Russia. 26 June 2014. Archived from the original on 26 June 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  11. ^ "UN Official Sees No Immediate Threat to Baghdad". Voice of America. 12 June 2014. Archived from the original on 26 June 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2014.
  12. ^ Brunborg, H., Lyngstad, T.H. & Urdal, H. European Journal of Population (2003) 19: 229. doi:10.1023/A:1024949307841
  13. ^ Antonio Cassese. "The Nicaragua and Tadić Tests Revisited in Light of the ICJ Judgment on Genocide in Bosnia". European Journal of International Law. 18 (4). doi:10.1093/ejil/chm034.
  14. ^ "Serbia's PM Vucic to attend Srebrenica massacre commemoration". Deutsche Welle. 8 July 2015.
  15. ^ "UN officials recall 'horror' of Srebrenica as Security Council fails to adopt measure condemning massacre". UN News Centre. 8 July 2015.
  16. ^ Emma Burrows, Milena Veselinovic (20 February 2017). "Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to UN, dies suddenly at 64". CNN. Retrieved 20 February 2017.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  17. ^ "Скончался постпред России в ООН Виталий Чуркин, мир соболезнует". RIA Novosti (in Russian). Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  18. ^ Russian ambassador to UN Vitaly Churkin passes away at 64 PressTV. 20 February 2017. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
  19. ^ "'India lost a friend with the demise of Russian envoy to UN'". The Economic Times. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  20. ^ "Russian ambassador to UN Vitaly Churkin dead: Diplomat dies suddenly in New York". The Independent. 20 February 2017.
  21. ^ Press, Associated. "Russian UN diplomat's death needs further study".
  22. ^ Vitaly Churkin: US will not release cause of Russian's death BBC, 10 March 2017.
  23. ^ Tracy, Thomas (10 March 2017). "NYC Medical Examiner won't release Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin's autopsy results". The Daily News. New York.
  24. ^ "Путин посмертно наградил Чуркина орденом Мужества". РИА Новости (in Russian). Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  25. ^ "Президент Сербии посмертно наградил Чуркина орденом Сербского флага". ИА REGNUM (in Russian). Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  26. ^ Unexpected deaths of six Russian diplomats in four months triggers conspiracy theories The Independent, 27 February 2017.
  27. ^ Nine months, nine prominent Russians dead CNN, 24 August 2017.
  28. ^ Russian diplomat found dead in Kazakhstan Real Russia Today, 28 December 2016.
  29. ^ Ambassador to Sudan is fourth Russian diplomat to die since January CNN, 24 August 2017.
  30. ^ Случаи смертей дипломатов РФ с 2016 года. Досье TASS, 24 August 2017.
  31. ^ ″Suspicious Russian deaths: Sacrificial pawns or coincidence?″, USA Today, 2 May 2017.

External linksEdit