MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti) - The chief of Russia's military intelligence (GRU), Gen. Valentin Korabelnikov, was relieved of his post after handing in his notice, a Defense Ministry spokesman said on Friday.
He has also been discharged from military service.
According to the Kremlin, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree earlier in the day appointing Korabelnikov's first deputy, Lt. Gen. Alexander Shlyakhturov, as the new military intelligence chief and deputy chief of the General Staff.
"Valentin Korabelnikov submitted a resignation request due to his retirement age. His request has been satisfied," the official said.
A highly-placed ministry official later told RIA Novosti that Korabelnikov had been appointed advisor to the chief of the General Staff in a civilian capacity.
The compulsory retirement age for senior officers in the Russian Armed Forces is 60. However, Korabelnikov's contract was earlier extended for three years. He turned 63 in January.
Media reports earlier claimed that Korabelnikov, who has led GRU since May 1997, had tendered his resignation over objections to a proposed reform of the body, but Russian military officials consistently dismissed the rumors, saying the general would keep his post for another two years.
A GRU source told RIA Novosti on Friday that Korabelnikov had tendered his resignation several times, but that only the latest request had been satisfied.
"Korabelnikov recently submitted another request for retirement in protest at the ongoing disbandment and re-subordination of elite GRU divisions and also some steps to streamline the GRU structure," the source said.
GRU is Russia's largest intelligence agency. It gathers human intelligence through military attaches and foreign agents. According to some sources, GRU has six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR, which is the KGB's foreign intelligence successor.
It also maintains significant signals intelligence and imagery reconnaissance and satellite imagery capabilities.