Blundering Russian spy chief dies, 62

Blundering Russian spy chief dies, 62

Igor Korobov, head of the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, which has been accused of numerous international crimes, has died in Moscow at 62.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said Korobov, who led the GRU since 2016, died of “a lengthy and grave illness”, a Russian euphemism for cancer. His predecessor had died two years earlier aged 58.

The GRU is accused of hacking the 2016 presidential campaign, orchestrating the March nerve agent attack on the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain and disrupting anti-doping efforts in world sports. Russia denies the accusations.

Vice-Admiral Igor Kostyukov, a hardliner who has predicted a major war in Asia, has been appointed acting head of the GRU.

A hardliner who predicted a war between the east and west in Asia has been appointed to Russia’s GRU following the death of intelligence chief Igor Korobov.

According to Interfax news agency, Kostyukov, 57, was named acting head of the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU).

He has been described as a hardliner and forecast a major war between the east and the west in Asia.

In September, British intelligence released surveillance images of GRU agents accused of the nerve agent attack in the English city of Salisbury. The investigative website Bellingcat and Russian site the Insider named the agents.

Speculation about Korobov’s future had been growing since an unconfirmed Russian media report said he had been summoned by Putin after the Skripal affair and severely criticised for the operation which left the pair alive and the GRU mocked and exposed in the western media.

Kremlin mouthpiece Tass reported, however, that the defence ministry had made Korobov a Hero of Russia, the country’s highest honour.

The Netherlands recently identified four alleged GRU agents who tried to hack the world’s chemical weapons watchdog from a hotel car park.

The US included Korobov on a March sanctions blacklist targeting those who helped “undermine cybersecurity on behalf of the Russian government”.

His death comes two years after that of his predecessor, Igor Sergun, who was also deputy chief of the armed forces general staff.

The 59-year-old died unexpectedly in January 2016 and the Kremlin said he was “a man of great courage and a true patriot”.

Putin visited GRU headquarters this month to congratulate the agency on its centenary, praising its professionalism.

The GRU deployed troops on Crimea in 2014. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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