General Assembly

21 March 2017

Remarks at General Assembly Tribute to Ambassador Vitaly Churkin

António Guterres

It is with deep sadness that I join you to pay tribute to our friend and colleague, Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin, who was tragically and suddenly taken from us last month on the eve of his 65th birthday.

Throughout his decade-long tenure as Russia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Churkin was a unique and visible presence.

His was an unmistakable voice -- as witty as he was passionate in defending Russian interests while advocating for a strong United Nations.

Truly and simultaneously, a patriot and an internationalist, Ambassador Churkin was truly one-of-a-kind – an outstanding diplomat, a man of many talents and interests, and a human being whose friendship touched many of us here in this hall today. 

He constantly tried to reach out to other people, regardless of political affiliations or positions. He made himself accessible to the press, even at times when others dodged reporters’ questions. 

From his beginnings as an interpreter, he went on to become one of Russia’s most able diplomats -- and one of the UN community’s most renowned actors, greatly respected and admired by all his colleagues.

I only came to know Ambassador Churkin recently, but even in that short time I quickly recognized his formidable diplomatic skills.

And I remember witnessing some of his most brilliant moments to comment to my friends this is “vintage Churkin”.

It was he, last October, during the Russian presidency of the Security Council, who announced to the world that the Council had decided to recommend me to the General Assembly to serve as Secretary-General. And this is something I will never forget.

I wish to once again express my deepest condolences to his wife Irena, to his son Maxim and the rest of his family; to all his friends and colleagues in the Russian Mission in New York and in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and to the Government and people of Russia.

I trust that all colleagues at the Russian Mission in New York and at the Russian Foreign Ministry will continue to build on his legacy and support the global mission of the United Nations to safeguard peace, sustainable development and human rights for all.

In closing, allow me to offer a few words in a probably not very correct Russian:

Pokoysia s mirom. Zemlia tebe puhom. (May you rest in peace. May the earth be a soft bed for you.) [Покойся с миром. Земля тебе пухом.]