UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russian diplomat Yuli Vorontsov, who was the last Soviet and first Russian ambassador to the United Nations and later served as Moscow’s envoy to the United States, has died, U.N. officials said on Thursday.
Vorontsov, who died in Moscow on Wednesday at age 78, was employed at the time of his death as a special U.N. envoy dealing with repatriation of Kuwaiti nationals or their remains from Iraq, which invaded Kuwait in 1990.
His death, the cause of which was not disclosed, occurred days after he returned from a trip to Kuwait, where he held meetings and prepared a report for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said U.N. spokeswoman Marie Okabe.
Ban learned of his death “with profound sadness,” she said.
One of Moscow’s top diplomats, Vorontsov spanned the communist and post-communist eras. He was sent as Soviet envoy to the United Nations in 1990 and, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, continued representing Russia until 1994.
He was then made Russian ambassador to Washington, where he stayed for five years.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed him in 2000 to the Kuwait job, which also involved trying to recover Kuwaiti property looted by Saddam Hussein’s forces, who were driven out of the Gulf state in 1991 by a U.S.-led coalition.
A Soviet diplomat since 1952, when Stalin still ruled the country, Vorontsov served in the 1970s and 1980s as ambassador to India, France and Afghanistan before going to the United Nations.