The Real Russia. Today.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's longtime UN ambassador, is dead. Also, Moscow warns London that there’s no cat capable of “bossing around the bear.”

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's permanent representative to the United Nations since 2006, died suddenly in New York City on Monday, a day shy of his 65th birthday. Since then, many politicians and diplomats have paid their respects to the veteran diplomat, who had served in the Russian Foreign Ministry since the 1970s. Even one of Churkin’s greatest critics in the United Nations, former U.S. Ambassador Samantha Powers, expressed her condolences in a tweet. Story in English

For the Record:

  • “She gave her speech as if she was Mother Teresa herself. Please, remember which country you represent. Please, remember the track record of your country.”

This was Churkin’s response to an angry speech by Samantha Power, then the U.S. ambassador to the UN, in December 2016, when Power asked the Russian Federation, “Is there literally nothing that can shame you?” She was referring to war crimes allegedly committed in Syria by the armed forces of Russia, Iran, the Assad regime. Read some of Vitaly Churkin’s most outspoken remarks in his last few years as “Moscow’s man in New York” by The Moscow Times.

  • “May God judge them.”

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, left the matter to divine powers, declining to comment further when asked on Tuesday about Ukraine’s decision to block a statement by the UN Security Council marking the death of Ambassador Churkin. Story in English

  • “The world applauds the diplomat / gives him praise deserved.”

On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov published a poem he wrote years ago to Vitaly Churkin. Lavrov composed the poem for his “friend and colleague” in 1993, as a birthday gift. At the time, Churkin was stationed in war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina. Read the English translation or Russian original

Quote of the Day:

“All lions are cats, but not all cats are lions. Let everyone tackle their own problems themselves. We don’t think their zoos have raised any animal that is able to boss the bear around.”

This collection of animal metaphors was Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s response to British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon’s warning to Moscow to keep its “paws” off Syria. Story in English

Context: Speaking at the Munich Security Conference last week, Secretary Fallon warned Russia not to interfere in Libya. “Putin is testing the West, he’s testing the alliance. We don’t need the bear sticking his paws in,” Fallon stressed.

Also in the News:

  • Women flight attendants accuse Russian airline Aeroflot of discrimination based on their age and appearance.  One of the women maintains that the airline said “only young and thin” flight attendants would be allowed to fly abroad and that such flights will not accommodate flight attendants with clothing sizes exceeding 46 (medium). At least two lawsuits have been filed against the airline in Moscow courts. Story in English
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry has drafted new sanctions against North Korea, officially halting the sale of Russian ships and helicopters to Pyongyang. Once signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the new measures will also stop the import of North Korean copper, nickel, silver, and zinc. The sanctions will end many of the existing scientific exchange programs between Moscow and Pyongyang, forcing Russian officials to notify the UN Security Council before any joint-projects take place. Story in English

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Trying to fill a Trump-sized hole, Russian propagandists are turning on each other. According to Bloomberg and “people familiar with the matter,” Russian TV last week was ordered to tone down coverage of Donald Trump. Before this development, a group of demonstrators, made up of conspiracy-prone ultra-nationalists calling themselves the “National Liberation Movement,” descended on the office of Dmitry Kiselyov, the Kremlin’s so-called chief propagandist, accusing the pundit and TV host of  “Trumpmania.” Kiselyov responded on his Sunday night television program with a long tirade against the activists and their leader. The segment was titled “The Feeble Ones,” and described the movement as a “traveling circus” bent on creating “information noise.” Story in English

Yours, Meduza