Dead Russian Spy: Accidental Drowning or Murder?

52-year-old General Yuri Ivanov’s decomposing body washed up on the shores of southern Turkey on August 12. On August 30, an official Russian eulogy reported that he had drowned while swimming “several days ago.” Various sources indicate he had been missing for ten days when his body was turned into the authorities by Turkish fisherman from the village of Cevlik, located in the Hatav province near the border with Syria.

General Ivanov was the Deputy Head of GRU, the Russian military’s foreign intelligence agency. Prior to this position, he led GRU’s North Caucasus arm until late 2006, which meant he was heavily involved in activities against Al Qaeda and the Chechen revolt.

The brevity of the Russian statement and the reference to almost a month as ‘several days’ makes us question the circumstances of his death. His previous role suggests that he has many enemies living in Syria, as the country is certainly home to Al Qaeda terrorist cells from Caucasia.

Furthermore, he allegedly drowned in Latakia, a Mediterranean port town in Syria, but it is extremely unlikely that a man of his position and rank would go swimming without bodyguards, and would drown without anyone noticing. If he did indeed drown, a thorough sweep would have been conducted for his body, which would have been found long before it drifted all the way to Turkey.

Finally, Latakia is a summer resort destination that hosts many wealthy and important Syrian and Gulf emirate officials and families. The resort’s swimming beaches are not only watched over by lifeguards, but are also patrolled by security guards. There is simply no way for a regular swimming accident to go unnoticed.

All of these indicators, from Ivanov’s previous position, to the circumstances of his disappearance and those of his body’s recovery seem to indicate that he was murdered and then dumped into the ocean after hours.

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