MOSCOW  - A former chief of Soviet intelligence is believed to have committed suicide in Moscow by shooting himself with a pistol days after celebrating his 77th birthday, police and investigators said Friday. A police official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the body of Leonid Shebarshin had been found in his centrally located Moscow apartment earlier in the day. He is believed to have shot himself with his pistol, the official said. "According to preliminary information, he might have committed suicide," investigators said in a separate statement, adding the gun was found next to the man's body.

Russian news agencies said, citing an unidentified Moscow police official, that Shebarshin had left a suicide note. They did not provide further details, and a spokesman for Moscow police declined to confirm the report to AFP. Born in 1935, Shebarshin celebrated his 77th birthday on March 24, according to Russia's Foreign Intel Service. A veteran intelligence officer and expert on S.Asia, Shebarshin worked in Pakistan, India and Iran.

He was the head of the First Main Directorate of the KGB, also known as foreign intelligence, between 1989 and 1991, the year which saw the collapse of the Soviet Union. He was acting head of the entire KGB security service for two days, between August 22 and August 23, 1991, right after a coup against then-president Mikhail Gorbachev, Russian news agencies said. Shebarshin is believed to have lived alone, his wife having died several years ago, according to the ITAR-TASS news agency.

He leaves behind several books and a collection of snappy aphorisms.

"KGB in Russia will never die. Only its names are mortal," says one.

Another one reads: "The only thing I could repent of is, I sinned but not much."