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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Russian spy chief accused of Novichok poisonings dies

Gen Col Igor Korobov died aged 63 after a “serious and long illness”

Gen Col Igor Korobov died in Moscow after an illness, according to Russia's military AP
Gen Col Igor Korobov died in Moscow after an illness, according to Russia's military AP

The head of Russian military intelligence, accused of poisoning a former Russian double agent in Britain, has died.

Gen Col Igor Korobov, 63, died on Wednesday after a “serious and long illness”, the Russian defence ministry said on Thursday.

"The loving memory of this wonderful person, a true son of Russia, a patriot of the Fatherland Colonel General Igor Valentinovich Korobov will always be in our hearts," the ministry said.

Korobov's GRU spy agency was blamed for organising the nerve agent attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March this year.

Britain said two GRU operatives had travelled to the English town of Salisbury to carry out the attack using the military-grade agent, novichok.

Media reports suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin summoned Korobov to the Kremlin to discuss the Skripal affair which resulted in more than 20 countries expelling Russian diplomats.

The GRU's reputation fell further into disrepute this year after it was accused of interfering in the 2016 US election and of plotting an attack on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

In the days after the British government released images of the Salisbury attackers, the Netherlands said it had caught Russian agents trying to hack the global chemical weapons watchdog.

Korobov took over as GRU head in 2016 following the death of his predecessor Igor Sergun.

Sergun was 58 when he died suddenly in January 2016. His death was announced three weeks after he was reportedly sent to Syria by Mr Putin to order President Bashar Al Assad to step down as leader of the Syrian regime.

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Korobov's deputy, Vice Admiral Igor Kostyukov, 57, has been appointed as acting GRU chief.

He presided over a gala organised earlier this month to mark the centenary of the spying agency, a ceremony which Korobov was notably absent from.