The mysterious death last month of a former Russian spy chief may be linked to a dossier that reportedly implicates U.S President Donald Trump in misconduct, the Telegraph newspaper reported on Sunday.
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Oleg Erovinkin, a former general in the KGB intelligence agency and its successor the FSB, was found dead in the back of his car in Moscow in late December.
No cause of death has been announced, though the local media has reported that foul play is suspected. The FSB is continuing to investigate.
Erovinkin was a key aide to Igor Sechin, a former deputy prime minister. He has been described as a key liaison between Sechin and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Now head of the state-owned oil company Rosneft, Sechin is repeatedly named in the so-called Trump dossier, which was compiled by former British intelligence agent Christopher Steele.
Trump has dismissed the dossier, which alleges both indiscreet behavior on his part and undisclosed links between the new president and the Kremlin, as "fake news."
Steele wrote in the dossier which was dated July 19, 2016, that much of the information it contained was provided by a source close to Sechin. That source was Erovinkin, according to Russia expert Christo Grozev of Risk Management Lab, a think-tank based in Bulgaria.
“Insiders have described Erovinkin to me alternately as ‘Sechin’s treasurer’ and ‘the go-between between Putin and Sechin,’" Grozev wrote. "One thing that everyone seems to agree – both in public and private sources – is that Erovinkin was Sechin’s closest associate.”
“I have no doubt that at the time Erovinkin died, Mr Putin had Mr Steele’s Trump dossier on his desk. He would – arguably – have known whether the alleged... story is based on fact or fiction," Grozev continued.
"Whichever is true, he would have had a motive to seek and find the mole... He would have had to conclude that Erovinkin was at least a person of interest.”
Steele, 52, has been in hiding following his unmasking as the author of the Trump dossier.