Russia’s head spook died suddenly and unexpectedly on Sunday, the Kremlin announced, after being accused of involvement in an operation to take out the Russian passenger jet that was blown up over the Sinai Peninsula.
A statement of Col. Gen. Igor Sergun’s death was quietly posted to the Kremlin’s website on Monday, The Wall Street Journal reports. There has been no discussion of the cause of death.
Sergun served as head of Russia’s military intelligence agency, which is formally known as the Russia’s General Staff (GRU), since 2011. Sergun was only 58 years old. He had been involved in military intelligence in one form or another since 1984. He came under fire as head of the GRU because western powers widely believe the agency has inserted itself covertly into the conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Sergun was targeted by United States and European Union sanctions precisely due to his role in Crimea.
Former KGB operative Boris Karpichkov alleged last week that the downing of the Russian jet over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula was actually a GRU-run operation to garner more support from western powers for Russian military action in Syria. Sergun, of course, was head of the GRU during this time period.
Russian President Vladimir Putin applauded Sergun for his long service after finding out about his death.
“His colleagues and subordinates knew him as a real military officer, and experienced and competent commander, a person of great courage and a true patriot,” Putin said in a statement from the Kremlin. “They respected him for his professionalism, strength of character, honesty and integrity.”
It is not immediately known who will replace Sergun.
His demise marks the second death of a Russian top military official in just one week. Last week, Gen. Alexander Shchukin, who led Russian paratroopers in Crimea, died of a blood clot.
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