Official: No foul play in death of Russian ambassador to UN

By David Shortell CNN

(CNN) -- Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin died of a heart attack, with no signs of foul play, a senior New York City official told CNN, citing a medical examiner's autopsy.

The city's Office of Chief Medical Examiner said earlier on Friday that it would not publicly disclose the cause and manner of Churkin's death because of diplomatic immunity laws.

"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," Julie Bolcer, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner, said.

Churkin died in New York City on February 20, one day before his 65th birthday.

Churkin spent more than 40 years in the diplomatic service and headed the Russian Mission to the United Nations for more than a decade.

"Ambassador Churkin was a uniquely skilled diplomat, a powerful orator with great wit, and a man of many talents and interests," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last month.

Churkin was often at odds with the United States, the United Kingdom and France. China would often take its cue from how Russia would vote. For a decade, it was Churkin who raised his arm to veto numerous resolutions ranging from the Syrian crisis to the Malaysia Airlines crash over eastern Ukraine.

He stood firm in supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime against Western attacks. And he cited US policy in Libya as a symbol of failure by Western countries who favored regime change.

CNN's Richard Roth contributed to this report.

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