Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN since 2006, Vitaly Churkin’s finest hour was undoubtedly August 10, when he lambasted Western hypocrisy in supporting Georgian aggression against South Ossetia and the UN-mandated Russian peacekeepers stationed there:
Its military action had begun with tank and heavy artillery attacks on Russian peacekeepers, which had resulted in 12 deaths. The Russian Federation wondered whether the term “ethnic cleansing” could be used to describe Georgia’s actions. What other terms could be used when 30,000 of South Ossetia’s population of 100,000 had become refugees? Could it be described as genocide when 2,000 out of 100,000 people died?
How many civilians had to die before it was described as genocide? he asked. When others were lamenting the death of civilians in Georgia, why weren’t they worried about the attacks on villages in South Ossetia? How could the international community react when, despite all the international agreements — Russian peacekeepers were acting in South Ossetia in accordance with the agreement of 1992, signed by Georgia and South Ossetia -– Georgia directly targeted peacekeepers and civilians? Had Georgia expected peacekeepers to run away as they had in Srebrenica?
Back in 2008, Russia’s soft power instruments were much less developed than today. RT was just getting started up. Churkin’s clear and uncompromising statement of the Russian case amidst the Western propaganda of Russian aggression was a light in the darkness. This event, perhaps even more so than Putin’s Munich speech, marked the final onset of post-Soviet Russia’s disillusionment with the US and its ceaseless lies and betrayals. Putin himself put it very succinctly: “The very scale of this cynicism is astonishing — the attempt to turn white into black, black into white and to adeptly portray victims of aggression as aggressors and place the responsibility for the consequences of the aggression on the victims.”
Churkin stoically soldiered on, laying out the Russian case on Libya, Syria, and Ukraine. This was not an unstressful job, considering the boorishness ideologues he had to do battle with (to take just one egregious example out of many, on convening an emergency session of the UN Security Council after the US bombed and killed 80 Syrian soldiers defending Deir ez-Zor, he was flat out informed by Obama’s flunky Samantha Power that she was “not interested” in what he had to say).
It’s possible that it was the stress that did his heart in at the age of 64. He had himself complained about it a few weeks before his death: “The profession of a diplomat has become much more hectic than it used to be in the past. It is stressful. Unfortunately, the world has not become more stable than it used to be.“