Russian United Nations ambassador dies in New York

Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations since 2006, died Monday in New York, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced.

The UN observed a moment of silence for Churkin, who would have turned 65 on Tuesday.

“Shocked and saddened to learn that Ambassador Vitaly Churkin passed away,” tweeted Alexander Yakovenko, the Russian ambassador to the United Kingdom. “A top diplomat and a good friend.”

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, told The Associated Press that Churkin became ill in his office at Russia’s UN mission and was taken to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he died Monday. His cause of death wasn’t immediately known.

“He was an outstanding person. He was brilliant, bright, a great diplomat of our age,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the Russian agency RT. She described the news of Churkin’s death was “completely shocking.”

Former US ambassadors to the UN tweeted similar thoughts.