Ambassador Vitaly Churkin’s sudden death in New York, where he had served as Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations for nearly 10 years, shook the diplomatic community.
I was chairing a session of the General Assembly when approached by Vitaly’s deputy, who asked me to make the announcement to colleagues in the hall. I did so in some shock, unable to absorb it, as we stood to observe a moment of silence and respect. On my mind were his warm and lovely wife Irina – whose birthday we had celebrated in December – and their two children Maksim and Anastasia.
My first meeting with Vitaly was in the imposing Russian mission, a throwback to another era. Our conversation felt like a game of chess with polite manoeuvres back and forth at the opening of our discussion, a grandfather clock tick-tocking in the background as we sipped lemony tea. I thought that I would have my work cut out to develop this relationship.