Luiz Rampelotto/EuropaNewswire
February 20, 2017 01:18 PM

Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin died suddenly in New York City on Monday, Russian officials said. He was 64.

Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, told The Associated Press that Churkin fell ill in his office at Russia’s U.N. mission and was taken to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he later died. The Associated Press said his cause of death wasn’t immediately known.

The Russian Foreign Ministry released a statement offering condolences to Churkin’s relatives and revealing he had died one day before his 65th birthday, Reuters reported.

“The outstanding Russian diplomat passed away at his work post,” the ministry said.

Churkin has been Russia’s envoy at the United Nations since 2006 and was considered a great defender of Russian policy.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general’s office, said Monday: “He has been such a regular presence here that I am actually quite stunned. Our thoughts go to his family, to his friends and to his government.”

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