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Head of Russian spy agency accused of Salisbury novichok attack dies

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The GRU's Moscow headquarters
The GRU's Moscow headquarters -
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The GRU's Moscow headquarters - REUTERS
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The head of Russia's GRU military agency, which has been blamed for various attacks by the west, has died after a "serious and long illness," the Russian defence ministry said.

Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
Igor Korobov, chief of Russia's Main Directorate of the General Staff of Russian Armed Forces, formerly known as the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters November 22, 2018Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

Igor Korobov, 62, ran the spy agency since 2016. State news agency TASS cited the ministry as saying he had been made a hero of Russia for his service in the post.

The GRU is the agency that Britain accused of attempting to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a nerve agent in the city of Salisbury earlier this year.

The Netherlands had also accused the agency of trying to hack the global weapons watchdog, headquartered in The Hague.

US intelligent agencies said the organisation tried to hack the 2016 presidential election.

Russia has denied all of the allegations.

Korobov was a Soviet military veteran who served in the air force and according to his official biography, began working for the GRU in 1985.

The GRU, founded as the registration directorate in 1918 after the Bolshevik revolution, is one of Russia’s three main intelligence agencies, alongside the domestic Federal Security Service and the SVR Foreign Intelligence Service, according to Reuters.