Putin’s KGB mentor-turned-critic dies of mystery ‘serious illness’

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s former KGB mentor and one-time crony, who later became an outspoken critic, has died from an unexplained “serious illness,” officials said.

Viktor Cherkesov, 72, died in St. Petersburg Tuesday night, according to a Telegram post by Alexander Khinstein, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy.

“Victor Vasilyevich was a wonderful person and a true statesman. Eternal memory to him!” Khinstein wrote.

No cause of death was released, but Russian media reported that it followed a “serious illness.”

Cherkesov was a former chief of the now-defunct State Drug Control Service (FKSN) and presidential envoy to the Northwestern Federal District, Radio Free Europe reported.

He got his start as a KGB officer in St. Petersburg in the 1970s, persecuting dissidents and investigating anti-Soviet activities. He eventually rose through the ranks to head the city’s FSB branch.

In 1998, after Putin was appointed director of FSB, Cherkesov moved to Moscow and served as his second-in-command.

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