A picture of Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, is displayed while people sign condolences books at the Russian Mission to the U.N. in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017. (AP/Seth Wenig)
NEW YORK – Less than a month ago, the United Nations was jolted by the news that the Russian ambassador to the U.N., Vitaly Churkin, had died suddenly while at work in the Russian Mission to the U.N. Though the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to elaborate on the circumstances surrounding Churkin’s death, unnamed U.S. government and law enforcement officials told Reuters that the diplomat had apparently died of a heart attack and that no foul play was evident at the time.
Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, told the Associated Press that Churkin had fallen ill and had then been rushed to the hospital, where he later died. But at the time, the cause of Churkin’s sudden and shocking death remained enigmatic.
Now, thanks to U.S. government pressure, the details of Churkin’s untimely demise may remain a secret for even longer. According to New York Times reporter Michael Grynbaum, the State Department, along with the city’s law department, has asked the New York medical examiner’s office not to disclose the Russian U.N. ambassador’s official cause of death.
In his tweet, Grynbaum cited a statement from Julie Bolcer, spokeswoman for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner:
“In order to comply with international law and protocol, the New York City Law Department has instructed the Office of Chief Medical Examiner to not publicly disclose the cause and manner of death of Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations. As outlined in formal requests from the United States Department of State, Ambassador Churkin’s diplomatic immunity survives his death. Further questions concerning this matter should be directed to the United States Department of State.”
Though Churkin’s death, in and of itself, may not be enough to arouse suspicion, the fact that five top Russian diplomats have died within 60 days of each other has led some to cast doubt on the State Department’s stated reason for wanting to keep the cause of Churkin’s death hidden from the public.
The fact that the U.S. government has developed weapons for covert assassinations that are able to produce spontaneous heart attacks in its victims has led to a proliferation of conspiracy theories on social media.
As MintPress previously reported, several Russian diplomats – Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov; senior diplomat at the Latin American department of Russia’s foreign ministry Peter Polshikov; Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin and Russian Consul in Athens Andrey Malanin – have died under mysterious circumstances since late December.
The deaths of these diplomats, including Churkin, comes at a time of great uncertainty in U.S.-Russia relations, with the Kremlin recently commenting that diplomatic relations between the two nations are at their lowest point since the Cold War.
Churkin, in particular, is likely sorely missed at the moment as the West continues to mount efforts to isolate the Syrian regime through sanctions and its military presence in the country, something Churkin fought fiercely against as Russia’s top diplomatic representative at the United Nations.
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