MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s military intelligence chief has left his post after less than three years at the helm of the country’s biggest spying agency to join a company that develops nuclear missiles, Kommersant newspaper reported on Saturday, citing sources.
Kommersant said General Alexander Shlyakhturov, who was appointed by President Dmitry Medvedev in April 2009, had left his post as head of GRU military intelligence service to head the board of OAO Korporatsiya MIT, which develops missiles.
Russian military intelligence service, known by its Russian acronym GRU, is Russia’s biggest spy agency with agents spread across the globe. It is so secretive that it does not have a spokesman or website. The Defence Ministry declined to comment.
Kommersant did not give a reason for Shlyakhturov’s departure from GRU and it was not immediately clear if he had resigned or was merely being moved to keep a closer eye on the development of Russia’s nuclear missiles, the cornerstone of Russia’s defence capability.
The failed launch of a military satellite which crashed into Siberia on Friday and a host of failures with a new generation, submarine-launched Bulava missile, has stoked concerns within the military about the quality of Russia’s strategic missiles.
OAO Korporatsiya Moscow Institute of Thermotechnology develops missiles including the 12-metre long Bulava, which Russia test fired successfully on Friday. Half of previous trials have failed.
The top brass of GRU has opposed Kremlin-backed military reforms in the past, leading to the dismissal of Shlyakhturov’s predecessor, General Valentin Korabelnikov, though Shlyakhturov is seen as an ally of Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who has cut servicemen and reorganised the command structure of the armed forces.
The spy service, created in 1918 under revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky, answers to the chief of the general staff, one of the three people who control Russia’s portable nuclear control.
Unlike the Soviet-era KGB secret police, GRU was not split up when the Soviet Union collapsed though the organisation has lost turf wars with the KGB’s main successor, the FSB, over recent year, according to local media.
Russia’s most powerful man, Vladimir Putin, served as a KGB spy in East Germany in the 1980s and later became director of the FSB though in 2006 he visited the new Moscow headquarters of GRU, where he was shown shooting a pistol on a firing range.
Reporting By Guy Faulconbridge