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Ukraine Crisis

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Viktor Cherkesov (left), a close KGB spy mentor of Vladimir Putin's who suffered demotion after daring to publicly criticise the Kremlin leader, has died from an unexplained 'serious disease'. Cherkesov, 72, once in charge of crushing Soviet dissidents, was crucial to the Russian president's rise but the pair later had strained relations. When Putin headed the FSB secret service before becoming prime minister, Cherkesov was installed as his trusted deputy. But relations between Cherkesov and Putin became strained after the spy mentor suggested in 2017 that the secret services were becoming corrupted under Putin. And now, Cherkesov has been found dead in St Petersburg from a 'serious illness', with no further details released by Russian authorities. His death is the latest of a number of top Russian officials who have died in suspicious circumstances in recent months. (Clockwise from top left, Russian MP Nikolay Petrunin, Lukoil chairman Ravil Maganov, Gazprombank vice-president Vladislav Avayev, Gazprom manager Alexander Tyulakov, billionaire Alexander Subbotin and head of Gazprom-linked transport company Yuri Voronov, all of whom are now dead.)

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