A mysterious accident in which one of Russia's most powerful spies was found dead on a Turkish beach has provoked speculation that the deputy head of the country's foreign military intelligence service had been murdered.
The badly decomposed body of Yuri Ivanov washed up last month on the shore of the Mediterranean, and was discovered by Turkish villagers in the province of Hatay, Turkish newspapers reported today. Reports suggest that he was quietly buried in Moscow over the weekend.
Ivanov was the second in command at Russia's foreign military intelligence unit, the GRU. The general had last been deployed to review military installations in Syria, amid Kremlin attempts to reassert its influence in the Middle East, reports suggested.
The general was last seen visiting the building site for a new Russian military base in the Syrian coastal city of Tartus, which is being expanded as a base for Russia's Black Sea fleet.
After his visit, he left for a meeting with Syrian intelligence agents. He then went missing, the Turkish newspaper Vatan reported today.
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The GRU is Russia's largest foreign intelligence agency . In 1997 it deployed six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR, which is the KGB intelligence successor. It also commanded 25,000 Spetsnaz troops in 1997.