Chief of Russia’s military intelligence agency dies

Igor Korobov died at the age of 62. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service/AP)
Updated 22 November 2018

Chief of Russia’s military intelligence agency dies

  • Under his tenure the GRU has become a byword for Russian meddling in Western affairs
  • The ministry said he died on Wednesday after a “long and serious illness”

Moscow: Russia’s military intelligence chief who oversaw a series of notorious operations abroad has died after a long illness, with Moscow praising him Thursday as a “great man” and a patriot.
Igor Korobov, 62, had headed the defense ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) since 2016 and was the target of US sanctions.
Under his tenure the GRU has become a byword for Russian meddling in Western affairs.
The ministry said he died on Wednesday after a “long and serious illness,” with analysts suggesting it was a code word for cancer.
Korobov’s 57-year-old first deputy, Vice Admiral Igor Kostyukov, has been appointed acting GRU chief and is likely become his successor, state news agency TASS said, citing a military source.
President Vladimir Putin has expressed condolences, said his spokesman Dmitry Peskov, adding the two “had been in constant dialogue.”
“The dear memory of this great man, a faithful Russian son and a patriot of the Motherland... will remain forever in our hearts,” the defense ministry said.
Sergei Naryshkin, the head of the SVR foreign intelligence agency, a GRU rival, praised Korobov as a “true comrade-in-arms.”
The West has accused the ultra-secretive agency of carrying out attacks on foreign soil, including the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with a Soviet-designed nerve agent in Britain in March.
Washington has said the GRU was directly involved in interfering in the 2016 US election through “cyber-enabled activities,” while the Netherlands has said they had thwarted a GRU cyberattack on the global chemical weapons watchdog.
Russia has denied the charges.
Korobov did not participate in a gala marking the centenary of the service in early November when Putin heaped praise on the GRU.
Korobov’s first deputy Kostyukov, who is thought to be in charge of Russia’s Syria operations at the GRU, reportedly presided over the ceremony.
“If he is appointed, then he will be the first naval seaman in the history of the GRU to become a military intelligence chief,” TASS quoted its source as saying.
Korobov, who joined military intelligence in 1985, received the Hero of Russia decoration for his service.


Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

Updated 14 November 2019

Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

  • At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks
  • More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding
MOGADISHU, Somalia: Ahmed Sabrie woke up to find his house half-submerged in fast-rising flood waters.

Frightened and confused, he herded his sleepy family members onto the roof of their home in central Somalia as scores of thousands of people in the town, Beledweyne, scrambled for their lives. Clinging to an electric power pylon by the edge of their roof, the family watched as their possessions were washed away.

“I could hear people, perhaps my neighbors, screaming for help but I could only fight for the survival of my family,” the 38-year-old Sabrie, the father of four, recalled.

As one of his children, unfed, wailed the family waited for more than 10 hours before a passing rescue boat spotted them.

Authorities have not yet said how many people died in the Somalia flooding last month, the country’s worst in recent history and the latest reminder that the Horn of Africa nation must prepare for the extremes expected to come with a changing climate.

At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks. Local officials have said at least 22 people in all are presumed dead and that toll could rise.

“This is a catastrophic situation,” Mayor Safiyo Sheikh Ali said. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who visited the town and waded through submerged areas, called the devastation “beyond our capacity” and pleaded for more help from aid groups.

With no proper emergency response plan for natural disasters, local rescuers used rickety wooden dhows to reach trapped people while helicopters provided by the United Nations plucked people from rooftops. African Union and Somali forces have joined the rescue operations and the Somali government airlifted food.

“Many people are still trapped in their submerged houses and we have no capacity and enough equipment to cover all areas,” said Abdirashakur Ahmed, a local official helping to coordinate rescue operations. Hundreds are thought to still be stuck.

With more heavy rains and flash flooding expected, officials warned thousands of displaced people against returning too quickly to their homes.

More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Beledweyne town was the worst affected. Several thousand people were sheltering under trees or in tents.

“Floods have destroyed more than three-quarters of Beledweyne and submerged many surrounding villages,” said Victor Moses, the NRC’s country director.

Aid groups said farms, infrastructure and roads in some areas were destroyed. The destruction of farmland near rivers is expected to contribute to a hunger crisis.

The possibility of further damage from heavy rains in the coming days remains a concern, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Parts of the Lower Juba, Gedo and Bay regions, where IOM has supported displaced populations for years, have been affected. Many displaced people were stranded without food, latrines or shelter.

“In Baidoa, people have moved to high ground where they are in immediate need of support,” said Nasir Arush, the minister for humanitarian and disaster management for South West State.

Survivors like Sabrie now must struggle to rebuild their lives.

“We’re alive, which I am thankful to Allah for, but this flood disaster wreaked havoc on both our livelihoods and households so I see a tough road ahead of us,” he said from a makeshift shelter built on higher ground outside town.