Lavrov on Churkin’s death: We walked through life side by side
Remembering their decades of friendship and shared diplomatic service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has spoken of how he "walked through life side by side" with the late Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin, who died on Monday.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s official Facebook account shared Lavrov's emotional post dedicated to his "colleague and friend."
Saying that Churkin "passed away in the line of duty, just several hours before his 65th birthday, Moscow time," Lavrov remembered how Churkin had celebrated his 42nd birthday in the early 1990s. It was in Sarajevo, "where snipers did their work on a daily basis," Lavrov wrote.
The two diplomats were appointed as deputy foreign ministers "simultaneously" in the spring of 1992, Lavrov wrote, explaining that he was in charge of work at the UN back then, while Churkin was serving in the Balkans.
Praising the late diplomat's efforts to settle the crisis in the former Yugoslavia, Lavrov shared a poem he wrote for Churkin in 1994.
Two decades later, the best way to pay respects to the Russian diplomat would be to continue with his efforts to achieve a "safer and more democratic world," the foreign minister said during an official meeting on Tuesday.
Speaking at a briefing following the meeting with his Swedish counterpart Margot Wallstrom, Lavrov called the ambassador to the UN "an outstanding diplomat," adding, "Let's remember him as such, and so will the people and international diplomacy."
The important thing for a diplomat, Lavrov added, is "the ability to advocate the interests of one’s country, without falling into unrestrained confrontation, looking for possibilities to unite efforts, based on the balance of interests.
"The best way to pay respect to our friend will be to continue working on creating the basis for a calmer, safer, more democratic world," the Russian foreign minister went on to say.
Vitaly Churkin passed away on February 20 at Russia's Permanent Mission to the UN in New York. He served as the Russian permanent representative to the UN for a decade, and was in diplomatic service for over 40 years.
Diplomats across the globe expressed their shock at Churkin’s sudden death, and people have been bringing flowers to the Foreign Ministry building in Moscow.
Staffan de Mistura: 'I lost a friend'
In a heartfelt interview to RT, UN special envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said Vitaly Churkin was "not only an outstanding ambassador and a remarkable professional," but also a "very special" person.
“I lost a friend, the UN and the Russian Federation lost one of their best diplomats," he said, adding that 10 years of his career in the UN were "associated with Vitaly being there."
In different periods, de Mistura was a special representative in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Syria, and "in each of these cases, [Churkin] was always professionally, competently supportive," the UN official said. He added that the late Russian ambassador always treated his colleagues with respect, and had "a personal understanding of the other [side’s] position from a human point of view."
"Even when he criticized me, and criticized the UN, he did that with grace, professionalism and a touch of warmth,” de Mistura said.
"He will leave the legacy of an ambassador who always stood very firmly and very effectively for the strategy and policy of his country. He never appeared to have any doubts, [he did his job] showing that he believed in what he was saying – these are qualities that you don't find in any ambassador. He had it," de Mistura told RT.