Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at a conference honouring the memory of Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Moscow, February 20, 2018

Tuesday, 20 February 2018 09:02

Dear Irina and Anastasia,


Today, we are marking the first sad anniversary of the death of our friend and outstanding Russian diplomat Vitaly Churkin who wrote glorious pages in the history of our profession. Mr Churkin passed away exactly one year ago while on duty in New York City. He was a complex person and a highly professional and well-educated diplomat. He was also a very multifaceted person, he had a lively and cheerful disposition, as well as a good sense of humour. All this makes him a tremendous personality. This is confirmed by the faces I see here in this hall, including senior Foreign Ministry officials, chairmen of Federation Council and State Duma committees on foreign affairs, representatives of academic institutions, public activists and foreign diplomats. All of us are extremely grateful to you for attending this event. I would like to say a special thank you to the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy and its Rector Yevgeny Bazhanov for this initiative. As far as I understand, this will become an annual conference whose participants will honour the memory of Mr Churkin and discuss other issues. This will also become a good forum for studying the experience of Russian diplomacy and mastering its progressive methods in every sense, methods that were employed so successfully and brilliantly by Mr Churkin.

Leaving all that aside, he and I were friends. We were appointed Deputy Foreign Minister at the same time in the spring of 1992. Mr Churkin’s best qualities shone in every position. His remarkable diplomatic career began in Washington DC (as discussed in Sergey Brilyov’s wonderful film for which I also want to sincerely thank him) under the guidance of our great Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin. He later established the Information Department virtually from the ground up. Although the Soviet Foreign Ministry also focused on this work, press relations came to require different skills after perestroika and all those new trends and ideas that engulfed this country. Mr Churkin completely mastered these skills while working in Washington. As a modest Second and First Secretary, he regularly visited the US Congress, spoke with House members, replied to their questions and satisfied their curiosity regarding Russian developments. He introduced these skills of directly dealing with journalists in person into the Information Department. As everyone noted, this Department ranked among the most progressive information divisions of Russian government agencies of that period.

Mr Churkin later served as Ambassador to Brussels and Canada. After that, he worked in Moscow for several years and addressed highly important Arctic Council issues. His talents were on full display in New York City. Even those who disagreed with him on political issues loved him as a person and a professional. But, owing to the position of their government, they were unable to say this openly. I observed this during a session of the UN General Assembly and during events held after UN Security Council meetings when we and the Americans had some rather heated arguments. At that time, Russia presided in the UN Security Council, and the Russian side organised an evening reception. Samantha Power, the then US Ambassador to the UN, arrived slightly late. Only a short time before, Mr Churkin and Ms Power faced off behind their microphones at the UN Security Council meeting, as they engaged in heated debate. But, once at the reception, they started discussing the news of the day and what awaited them tomorrow in a friendly manner.

Mr Churkin will remain in our memory forever. I would like to once again thank everyone present for remembering him, and we will remember him for many years to come, as long as we live. I am very grateful to the Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy for the fact that an initiative to hold this special event will not simply be confined to eulogies but will also have practical implications, as a good school for assessing and carrying on the experience of Russian diplomacy in all its manifestations, so that this experience will live on in service to our Motherland.

I wish all of you successful work.

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