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How Russia's Top Diplomats Make It Through the Storms

  Sergey Guneev

Russia's top diplomats often find themselves in difficult situations; February 10 is a holiday dedicated to their profession in Russia, and we will look at how Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN Envoy Vitaly Churkin do their jobs.

In the crises which have arisen in recent years, Lavrov and Churkin have become Russia's diplomatic heavyweights in an increasingly complicated global arena. Despite Lavrov being 65 years old, there seems to be no stopping him as he appears to be determined to resolving the multi-sided conflict in Syria.

1. Circling the World

In the 12 years Lavrov has worked as Russia's foreign affairs minister, he has spent a total of 6 months on a plane and made enough trips to circle the world 83 times. His wife, he says, accompanies him on all of his trips.


Lavrov's Secret Get-Away Spot: Find Out Where Russian FM Spends Vacation

2. Braving the Rapids


Lavrov is also an avid rafter. He has compared the extreme sport to diplomacy, saying that success in both "can only be achieved through well-coordinated teamwork when everyone is rowing in tune with each other. If someone would try to be selfish, ignoring his partners, than the raft will overturn.."

3. Sri Lanka Connection

Although he has spent much of his career in Washington and New York, Lavrov began his career at Russia's diplomatic outpost in Sri Lanka. Despite starting his profession as an attache, Lavrov basically became the ambassador's chief assistant, and was promoted to third secretary by the end of the post; he was able to count on receiving positive recommendations later, when his career took him to the UN.

4. Poet and Songwriter

In addition to writing poetry in his spare time, Lavrov has also written a brief anthem for his alma mater, the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. Additionally, he has also practiced improv comedy for informal foreign ministers' meetings.

From right: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador to the UN, at a meeting with 27 EU foreign ministers during the 63rd UN General Assembly session in New York

Churkin, aged 63, has also seen his share of diplomatic drama, and is on his way to becoming Russia's longest-serving UN envoy, with less than two months remaining before he outlasts the previous record holder, Lavrov.

1. Acting the Part

Before going into diplomacy, Churkin honed his public speaking skills on the big screen. At age 13, he starred in three films, two Vladimir Lenin biopics and a medical drama. He then abandoned the career to focus on studying English at a specialized language school, as well as speed skating. 

2. Explaining Chernobyl

Churkin first made headlines during the Chernobyl accident in 1986, when he testified before a US Congressional committee on the disaster. Despite having only a few hours for preparation and only official Soviet information at his disposal, he was able to explain his country's position on an accident that had only recently shocked the world and would take years to fully investigate.



3. Opening the Russian Room at UN


One of Churkin's lasting contributions to the United Nations was the inauguration of the "Russian Room," a side chamber used for informal negotiations before countries make statements. 

4. Overcoming UNSC tensions

Tempers in the room often flare when Churkin makes statements. The now-recalled representative of Ukraine to the UN, Yuriy Sergeyev, said that he had a difficult relationship with Churkin as far back as 2007. Things are better with US envoy Samantha Power, despite their political differences. Churkin himself said that one thing he was told by a US official at the Chernobyl inquiry, was that he has an ability to prove his point without irritating the opponent, and hopes this is still the case.




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