Russian President Vladimir Putin leads the tributes to veteran diplomat Vitaly Churkin who died a day before his 65th birthday in New York.

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin addresses members of the UN Security Council at the UN headquarters in New York, March 6, 2015.
Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin addresses members of the UN Security Council at the UN headquarters in New York, March 6, 2015.

The Russian ambassador to the United Nations has died at the age of 64. Russia's Foreign Ministry says Vitaly Churkin's death was unexpected but gave no detail about how he died.

Churkin has been one of Russia's lead diplomats dealing with the war in Syria, the annexation of Crimea, and the economic sanctions enforced on Moscow by Western nations.

TRT World's Ben Said reports.

Churkin was rushed to New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center on Monday, where he died, Russia's deputy UN ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, told The Associated Press. The cause of his death wasn't immediately known.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was deeply upset to learn of the death, Russian news agencies cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

"The head of state highly valued Churkin's professionalism and diplomatic talent," Peskov said. Russia's foreign ministry called Churkin an "outstanding" diplomat and expressed condolences to his friends and family. His death, the day before his 65th birthday, stunned officials at the UN's headquarters.

"Our thoughts go to his family, to his friends and to his government," said UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, who heard the news from reporters as it circulated during a daily briefing.

Churkin was previously ambassador at large and earlier served as the foreign ministry spokesman. Churkin had a doctorate in history and was a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies