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

A gun, which he was awarded upon retirement, was discovered near the body of the 77-year-old. Police also found a suicide note on the scene.

The ex-spy, fluent in Urdu, worked on assignments in Pakistan, India and Iran from the 1950s to '70s. He was appointed deputy chief of foreign intelligence in 1987 and promoted to head the service in 1989. Mr. Shebarshin briefly occupied the KGB's top post after the failed hard-line coup of August, 1991. He resigned from active service shortly afterwards.

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The website quoted extracts from Mr. Shebarshin's diary discovered at the scene, which revealed that he could have had health problems. His last entry read: "March, 29 – 17.15, left eye failure. 19.00, went completely blind. Foreign Intelligence duty officer 4293593."

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