Russian envoy suddenly dies

Russian envoy suddenly dies

On Monday, February 20, 2017, Mr. Vitaly Churkin, Russian envoy to the UN suddenly died at the Russian Mission in New York. While the reason behind his death is as yet unclear, it is reported that he suffered a heart attack. 

What May Have Transpired?

On Monday, February 20, 2017, Mr. Vitaly Churkin, Russian envoy to the UN suddenly died at the Russian Mission in New York. While the reason behind his death is as yet unclear, it is reported that he suffered a heart attack. He had been reportedly suffering from health problems including heart ailments and leukaemia. The New York City police have stated no evidence of foul play has been found.

Who was Vitaly Churkin?

Mr. Churkin served the Russian Diplomatic service for four decades and headed the Russian UN Mission since 2006. He supported the UN as a key platform for resolving global conflicts. He was a fierce defender of Russian policy and was critical of the West’s outlook on many counts. However, he never underestimated the opposition.

His key work involved:

Vetoing resolutions on the Syrian Crisis six times to safeguard Mr. Assad’s regime and defending Russia’s military intervention. Rejecting the resolution on the Malaysian Airlines Crash in eastern Ukraine and upholding Russian support of separatists in Ukraine. Rebuking the US involvement in Libya for favouring regime change.

What Concerns Surround His Demise?

On December 29, 2016 former US President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats for alleged Russian interference in the US Presidential election. Russian refrain in retaliating was surprising and unexpected. The move gave the perception of Russia being more tolerant. Further, US President-elect Trump’s vocal praise for the Russian tactic brought embarrassment to the US Government. President Trump has indicated his personal respect for Russian President Vladimir Putin, and supports closer relations with Russia, in contrast with the traditional US Government outlook. This is a major difference of opinion between the Executive and its bureaucracy. Mr. Churkin’s tenure with the Obama Presidency, witnessed US-Russian relations decline. Allegations of Russia’s involvement with President Trump’s election compounded matters.

President Trump’s National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, resigned after just 24 days in office. While several reasons have been attributed for his resignation, it is believed that the former NSA had been compromised by Russian Intelligence. This has created distrust and embarrassment in the Government. With Mr. Churkin’s passing, a new Russian envoy would be the latest change in the UN after the appointment of new Secretary General António Guterres and Ms. Nikki Haley as the US envoy.

Assessment

Mr. Vitaly Churkin’s death in the UN HQ, New York has come at a time, when US-Russian relations are strained. The different perceptions on Russia between the new President and the erstwhile, the expulsion of Russian diplomats by the previous dispensation and the resignation of the NSA have raised suspicions in the traditional US establishment. So far, no formal declaration for the cause of Mr. Churkin’s death has been issued, which may be natural, the timing is curious.

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