The head of the Russian military’s Main Intelligence Directorate, widely known by its old acronym of GRU, which the West has blamed for a string of brazen attacks, died on Wednesday after “a serious and long illness,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said.
Russian news agency TASS cited the ministry as saying that 62-year-old Igor Korobov, who ran the spy agency since 2016, had been made a Hero of the Russian Federation, the highest state award, for his service in the post.
Britain has accused the GRU of attempting to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent in the city of Salisbury, England; the Netherlands has accused it of trying to hack a global chemical weapons watchdog; and US intelligence agencies have said that it tried to hack the 2016 US presidential election.
Speculation about Korobov’s fate had been growing since an unconfirmed Russian media report that he had been summoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin after the Skripal affair and severely criticized for the operation, which left the Skripals alive and the GRU a target of mockery in the Western media.
Korobov was absent from a ceremony earlier this month in Moscow, where Putin and other senior officials celebrated the centenary of the GRU, with the Russian leader praising its skill and “unique abilities.”
Operatives of the agency set an example for a future generation of military spies, said Putin, who is a former intelligence officer, citing their readiness to sacrifice everything “for the motherland.”
Korobov’s death paves the way for Putin to appoint a successor to head an agency that intelligence experts say has stepped up its covert missions as tension mounts between Russia and the West.
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