Fourth Ambassador and seventh diplomat, overall.
Coincidence? Some don’t think so.
August 24, 2017
Serving as a foreign diplomat has never been the safest business, nor has working for the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The intersection of those two gigs is even more dangerous. Russia’s ambassador to Sudan was found dead in the African nation’s capital of Khartoum Wednesday, according to The New York Times. That makes Mirgayas Shirinsky, a career diplomat in his early 60s, the fourth senior envoy from the Kremlin to “die prematurely” in the last nine months.
The Sudan Foreign Ministry did not provide a cause of death for Shirinsky in a statement to the press, saying only that he “died this evening at his Khartoum residence.” That bares some resemblance to the case of Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s longtime U.N. ambassador, who almost literally dropped dead at work in February. That came at a crucial point in U.S.-Russia relations, the Times pointed out at the time, and the Russian government did not disclose a cause of death for the 64-year-old in a public statement, though it did describe Churkin as an “outstanding diplomat.” The NYPD said there was no indication of foul play. Shortly before that, Russia’s ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, died after a brief illness at age 68. And last December, Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov was infamously assassinated by a Turkish policeman screaming slogans indicating he was motivated by Russia’s support for the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad in that country’s civil war.
There’s no evidence the premature deaths are related in any way, and none of the men were particularly young: Karlov, the youngest by confirmed age, was 62. But all four were longstanding, senior-level members of Russia’s diplomatic corps serving abroad in crucial roles. And “abroad and important” has never been the safest place for current or former servants to Vladimir Putin’s government. That most infamously includes Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB and FSB head who fled to London and became a prominent critic of Putin’s regime. He was ultimately poisoned with a cup of tea.