UNITED NATIONS - Russia’s Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin Monday died of an apparent heart attack in New York, diplomats said. Churkin, 64, who had represented Russia at the U.N. since 2006, passed away just a day before his 65th birthday.  Paramedics arrived at the Russian Mission and found the diplomat in cardiac arrest, sources said. He was declared dead at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

The diplomat was at work when he became sick with a “cardiac condition” around 9:30 a.m. (7:30 PM PST). Russia's Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Yevgeniy Zagaynov said about Churkin that he kept working "till the very end."

Expressing sorrow over Churkin's passing away, Pakistan UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi called him a "great diplomat and colleague". "His loss will be felt by the UN family as he was an extraordinary diplomat who served his country with distinction and worked with his colleagues in a friendly and cooperative way."

Vitaly Ivanovich Churkin was a Russian diplomat. Ambassador Churkin served as Russia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations since 2006. Before that, he was Ambassador at Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation (2003-2006), Ambassador to Canada (1998-2003), Ambassador to Belgium and Liaison Ambassador to Nato and WEU (1994-1998), Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation to the talks on Former Yugoslavia (1992-1994), Director of the Information Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR/Russian Federation (1990-1992).

Vitaly Churkin held a Ph.D. in history and was a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.