Vladimir Putin at a meeting on Russia's Armed Forces actions in Syria. ©Kremlin

Did Ankara Assassinate Russian Intelligence Chief Igor Sergun?

Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan – Two months after the surprising death of Russia’s intelligence chief, Igor Sergun, the Lebanese daily newspaper al-Akhbar reports that the General had been assassinated in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

On January 4 the Russian Defense Ministry announced Sergun’s death, saying that he died in Moscow after a heart attack. Having played a crucial role in the Russian incorporation of Crimea in 2014, the military intelligence chief was dispatched to Damascus by Russian President Vladimir Putin in December 2015. However, his mission was not only limited to war-torn Syria.

Russian servicemen stand at the Russian Hmeimim military base in Latakia province, in the northwest of Syria, on December 16, 2015.

According to an unnamed diplomatic source in London quoted by al-Akhbar on Thursday, the Russian General was assassinated during a secret operation in Lebanon’s Beirut, “in which several Arab and Middle Eastern intelligence actors may have participated.”

The diplomat also implied that Ankara was involved in Sergun’s assassination and claimed that this involvement resulted in Russia's decision to confront Turkey further, which increased tensions between the countries, especially on the Syrian front.

Shortly after Sergun’s death the Financial Times reported that “the general, who is believed to have cut his teeth as a Soviet operative in Syria, bore a message from Vladimir Putin for President Bashar al-Assad: The Kremlin, the Syrian dictator’s most powerful international protector, believed it was time for him to step aside,” and to choreograph a “transition of power that would maintain the Alawite regime but open the door to realistic negotiations with moderate rebels.” However, it seems that the plan never reached the desired stage.

Syria's Bashar al-Assad speaks with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin (R) during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 20, 2015.

Although the Financial Times did not say that the General died on the trip rumors started swirling days after his death, with US-based intelligence company Stratfor starting the ball rolling on these unconfirmed reports.

Stratfor’s report says: “If the report that he died in Lebanon is true, it raises questions about what Sergun was doing in a country that is a hotbed for the world’s intelligence services and why the Kremlin would cover up his death abroad.”

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