UN appoints Russian diplomat as new counter-terror chief

UN appoints Russian diplomat as new counter-terror chief
The UN has appointed a Russian diplomat as the new counter-terror chief on Wednesday, despite ejecting Moscow from the Human Rights Council for its war crimes in Syria.
2 min read
22 June, 2017
Vladimir Voronkov serves on the board of governors of the UN's global nuclear watchdog [Getty]

A Russian diplomat was appointed as the United Nations' first counter-terrorism chief on Wednesday, the agency confirmed.

Vladimir Voronkov is Russia's current representative to UN international organisations in Vienna and serves on the board of governors of the UN's global nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. 

"I do believe that we have a problem of coordination of the 38 entities that within the UN deal with counterterrorism, so it makes full sense to have a dedicated office with a responsible (person)," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a news conference on Tuesday.

The new high-level position was created by Guterres to strengthen counter-terrorism efforts that had been dispersed among several UN agencies and departments.

Voronkov "will provide strategic leadership to United Nations counterterrorism efforts, participate in the decision-making process of the United Nations and ensure that the cross-cutting origins and impact of terrorism are reflected in the work of the United Nations," said UN spokesman Farhan Haq in announcing the appointment.

Born in 1953, Voronkov served as Russian deputy ambassador to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) between 2005 and 2008. 

He was also posted to the Russian embassy in Poland and was director of the department of European cooperation at the Russian foreign ministry in Moscow, where he began his career in 1989.

A graduate of Moscow State University, Voronkov is fluent in English and Polish.

The UN General Assembly last week approved the creation of the new UN office of counterterrorism.

"The secretary-general considers counterterrorism and prevention of violent extremism to be one of the highest priorities of the United Nations to address a growing threat to international peace and security," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said after the assembly's approval.

The appointment is expected to raise Russia's profile in international counterterrorism and at the United Nations, where Voronkov will hold the title of under-secretary-general.

But last year, the UN Human Rights Council voted to eject Russia from its ranks, in what was seen as a stunning rebuke to the country accused of war crimes over its actions in Syria, where more than 300,000 have died in a six-year-conflict.

"In rejecting Russia's bid for re-election to the Human Rights Council, UN member states have sent a strong message to the Kremlin about its support for a regime that has perpetrated so much atrocity in Syria," said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch said in October.