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Former top KGB spy found dead in Moscow apartment

Ex-Soviet KGB foreign intelligence chief Leonid Shebarshin was found dead in his Moscow apartment on Friday in an apparent suicide, Russian investigators said.

Shebarshin, 77, who headed the First Chief Directorate, a foreign intelligence service within the KGB in 1989-1991, appeared to have committed suicide, the Investigative Committee said on its website. A gun, which he was awarded upon retirement, was discovered near his body. Shebarshin had a bullet wound in his head, The Moscow Times reported.

Police also found a suicide note on the scene, Interfax news agency quoted a police official as saying.

The ex-spy, fluent in Urdu, worked on assignments in Pakistan, India and Iran in the 1950s-1970s. He was appointed deputy chief of foreign intelligence in 1987, and promoted to head the service in 1989.

Shebarshin briefly occupied the KGB's top post after the failed August 1991 hardline coup, intended to halt president Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms, which paved the way for the collapse of the Communist Party, the end of the Soviet Union and the creation of the present-day Russian state.

He resigned from active service shortly after the coup. During his life, Shebarshin wrote books and articles on the history of foreign intelligence work.

According to The Independent, the lifenews.ru website quoted extracts from Shebarshin's diary found at the scene, which showed he might have had health problems. According to the report, the last entry read:

"March, 29 - 17.15, left eye failure. 19.00, went completely blind. Foreign Intelligence duty officer 4293593."

The KGB fragmented after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its once-mighty foreign intelligence service, crippled by under financing and corruption in the 1990s, suffered damage to its reputation in a number of embarrassing spy failures abroad.

The U.S. intelligence services exposed a group of 10 Russian spies operating on their territory in 2010, which was followed by a Cold War era-type spy swap between the two ex-foes.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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