>> The head of Russia's spy agency has died. Igor Korobov, aged 62, led the GRU military intelligence agency. The body which has been blamed for a string of brazen attacks in recent months. TASS, Russia's state news agency reported that Korobov seen here on the right, died of a serious and long illness.
The West has blamed the GRU for the nerve agent poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia in the city of Salisbury in March. The Netherlands has accused it of trying to hack the global chemical weapons watchdog. And US intelligence agency say it tried to hack the 2016 presidential election.
The US included Korobov's name on a sanctions blacklist of people believed to have helped undermine cyber security on behalf of the Russian government. Russia denies all these accusations. Korobov, a Soviet military veteran and pilot, had run the spy agency since 2016. And had been made a Hero of Russia, the highest state award, according to TASS.
Speculation about Korobov's fate had been growing, and unconfirmed Russian media reports stated he was summoned by President Putin after the Skripal affair. And severely criticized for the operation, which left the Skripals alive and the GRU a target of mockery in Western media. He wasn't at a centenary celebration of the spy agency in Moscow.
Intelligence experts say the GRU has stepped up covert missions, as tensions mount between Russia and the West.