'Russian Ambassador Churkin's cause of death won't be released'

Indo Asian News Service

New York, March 11 (IANS) Cited diplomatic protocol, the New York City medical examiners office has said it will not release the cause and manner of death for Russias ambassador to the United Nations, who died last month after collapsing in his office.

An autopsy was performed on Ambassador Vitaly Churkin last month but the death required further study, CBS News reported on Friday.

The additional tests were completed, but Julie Bolcer, spokeswoman for the city's medical examiner, said that the city's law department told the office not to release any further information, "in order to comply with international law and protocol."

The US Department of State asked the city in writing on February 24 to not reveal the autopsy results because Churkin's diplomatic immunity survives his death.

"The United States insists on the dignified handling of the remains of our diplomatic personnel who pass away abroad (including in Russia) and works to prevent unnecessary disclosures regarding the circumstances of their deaths," wrote James Donovan, minister counsellor for host country affairs for the US mission to the United Nations.

In a follow-up letter on March 1, the State Department noted that the Russian Federation raised concerns after the autopsy had been conducted and "voluntary statements reported in the media about Ambassador Churkin's medical history" prompted complaints from Russian diplomats.

"The information reported was very private in nature and included information about which even they had no knowledge," Donovan wrote in the follow-up letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio's international affairs office.

A State Department official said that the department was not in a position to comment on the autopsy, which the official said was consistent with American obligations under an agreement between the US and the UN.