Russian military spy chief to resign: reports

28th September 2011, Comments 0 comments

The head of Russia's military intelligence the GRU is set to resign amid a growing controversy within the ultra-secretive service over a restructuring drive, reports said on Wednesday.

Alexander Shlyakhturov, 63, a career GRU operative whose identity is so secret that not a single photograph of him exists in the public domain, has spearheaded a shake-up of the service since his appointment in 2009.

Press reports said that he is now on sick leave pending his resignation after cutting down the number of generals in the service to just 20 from hundreds and reducing the number of brigades within its structure from eight to three.

The government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta said such sick leave was normal practice for top figures for check-ups ahead of retirement but the Izvestia daily said he had been hospitalised and would never return to his office.

Shlyakhturov is credited with carrying out the reforms that his predecessor Valentin Korabelnikov refused to implement, leading to his dismissal in 2009. Izvestia said that Shlyakhturov had dismissed 1,000 officers.

However Izvestia indicated that the changes have not met with universal acclaim inside the service.

"Military intelligence, which for long was the eyes and ears of our army commanders, is collapsing," it quoted a GRU veteran as saying.

"Brigades are being reduced, the experienced specialists have been fired and just young people are left. The new chief will have a lot to do," said the source, who was not named.

The source said the situation was delicate as the GRU's units -- who have the capacity to disable facilities of an enemy behind their lines -- had highly specialised roles.

One group is specialised in airports, another transport hubs and a third in nuclear sites, the source revealed.

The GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate) traces its history back to 1918 in the early months of the Bolshevik Revolution and unlike other Russian secret services did not change its name after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It reputedly runs vastly more agents abroad than the KGB successor the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and is also active in space through a network of military intelligence satellites.

© 2011 AFP

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