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Russian intelligence chief dies: ministry

У Росії помер глава ГРУ Коробов- 24 Канал

MOSCOW: The head of the Russian military intelligence agency linked to a series of notorious operations overseas has died after a long illness, the defence ministry said on Thursday.

Korobov was appointed head of the GRU in February 2016. Having graduated from the Military-Diplomatic Academy, he served as a military diplomat, source close to the Ministry of Defence told RBK.

The West has blamed GRU for a string of brazen attacks.

The UK accused Russian Federation of attempting to poison former spy and double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent in Salisbury.

The Netherlands had also accused the agency of trying to hack the global weapons watchdog, headquartered in The Hague. It did not give further details about his death.

The deceased general led the GRU officers in the Russian war operations in Syria.

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.

He was hard-pressed to say whether Korobov's successor would usher in any changes, noting the agency's policies were shaped by Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Putin.

"Of course they had a constant dialogue as a commander-in-chief and a head of one of the leading special services", Peskov said.

Korobov was among the Russian officials hit with USA sanctions in March for efforts to "undermine cyber security on behalf of the Russian government". However, he did not meet with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while in the US capital.

American officials added Korobov to their sanctions list in December 2016 for his "efforts to undermine democracy" by organizing hacker attacks.

Gen Korobov had worked in military intelligence since 1985.

The agency's structure, staff number and finances are a state secret.

It has allegedly been involved in undercover operations in Ukraine - after Russia's annexation of Ukraine's southern Crimea peninsula in 2014 - and is accused of direct involvement in the hacking of the 2016 United States presidential election.

Russian male life expectancy was 67 as of 2016, according to the World Bank.

Tass tweeted the news of his death with an image of General Korobov in a grey military jacket.

CNN's Nathan Hodge reported from Moscow and Laura Smith-Spark from London.