13 December 201917:56

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the presentation of Lost In Translation, a book of memoirs by Vitaly Churkin, Moscow, December 13, 2019

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Dear friends,

We have gathered here for the presentation of a book by our friend and outstanding Russian diplomat Vitaly Churkin. He had been working on it until the last days of his life. He came up with the title himself – Lost in Translation. I would like to thank Mrs Churkin for completing this work and for having it published, and I would also like to thank the publishers, of course.

Vitaly Churkin performed a great service for his homeland. Apart from state awards, many of his accomplishments were also acknowledged in somewhat different, informal situations. After Mr Churkin’s death, his achievements were honoured by scientific conferences held at our Diplomatic Academy on February 20 of this and last year.

Today, we have one more reason to pay tribute to Mr Churkin’s contribution to our foreign policy. He was a brilliant diplomat. In the heat of perestroika (back then he worked in the United States under Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, and I think Anatoly Torkunov also was there at the time), Vitaly as a young diplomat was the only one who boldly, resolutely, clearly and convincingly spoke in Congress before seasoned senators, congressmen, and described what was really going on in our country.  

He was engaged in many diverse activities – he was a multitasker. He made an enormous contribution to build up the ministry’s information department under new conditions. He untiringly worked on the Yugoslavia crisis settlement, actually, not one but three crises there; then he was Ambassador to Belgium and Canada, and the peak of his career was certainly Permanent Representative to the UN. We actually should not forget his previous mandate to ensure Russia’s participation in the Arctic Council. Many back then thought that it wasn’t an important activity for us, but the Arctic’s significance is many times more relevant now, and the foundations Mr Churkin laid while he headed our delegation at the Arctic Council, are of great help to us today.   

His skills were at their best in New York – I am saying this from a position of experience. I don’t need to remind you that his tenure coincided with some very serious crises with global implications, including Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia, Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s independence, and on the same note – NATO’s aggression against Libya, the developments in Syria, the Ukrainian crisis caused by the coup, following which we managed to formulate the Minsk agreements that are now the foundation of our work and that were unanimously approved by the UN Security Council, largely thanks to personal efforts by Mr Churkin. This is a great achievement in this critical area.

Mr Churkin was brilliant, talented, and headstrong. He had his own opinion and knew how to defend his position. He could stand strong. He never surrendered to what his opponents thought were “devastating” arguments. What is especially important for working at the UN Security Council, he paid a lot of attention to detail. It is very hard to achieve a result there otherwise. And he always did. He was respected. We are all aware of his relations with our Western partners, including Samantha Power who wrote some very nice words about him. He was an empathetic person. When he performed his professional duties – whether it was in New York, Bosnia or anywhere else, he took everything close to heart. Of course, Mr Churkin did encounter unsympathetic partners who did not appreciate what we were trying to do. He internalised everything. I remember our last meetings, our conversation during his last General Assembly session as Permanent Representative. It was apparent that his outstanding achievements had cost him great stress and physical strain. We will always remember him as someone who will forever remain in the annals of our diplomacy.

I am convinced that his book will be of great interest to researches and experts in foreign policy and international relations. But in addition to them, the younger generation – our MGIMO University and Diplomatic Academy students – will by all means show interest in this book, too. I recommend it to you.  

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