Russian Ambassador to Turkey Assassinated Publicly at an Art Gallery

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ANKARA, TURKEY - DECEMBER 19: Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov (R) gives a speech as he visits an art fair at Modern Art Center in Ankara, Turkey on December 19, 2016. Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov has been shot multiple times at an exhibition in Ankara on Monday evening. Karlov was delivering a speech at the opening ceremony of a photo exhibit when an armed assailant opened fire on him. The envoy was seriously wounded and was taken to hospital immediately. (Photo by Ecenur Colak/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

The Russian Ambassador to Turkey has been assassinated at a public event in Ankara, Turkey’s capital on Monday.

Andrei Karlov was killed at a public gallery on Monday night. A man in a suit behind the ambassador fired eight shots at him and declared:

“Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria. Unless our towns are secure, you won’t enjoy security. Only death can take me from here. Everyone who is involved in this suffering will pay a price.”

He also shouted in Arabic: “We are the one who pledged allegiance to Muhammad, to wage jihad.”

A few seconds later, the attacker was killed by security forces, who cordoned off the premises of the Arts gallery.

Russia has denounced the assassination and labelled it “an act of terrorism”.

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, called the killing a “provocation” aimed at sabotaging a rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara and attempts to resolve the conflict in Syria.

“The crime that was committed is without doubt a provocation aimed at disrupting the normalisation of Russian-Turkish relations and disrupting the peace process in Syria that is being actively advanced by Russia, Turkey and Iran,” he said in televised comments.

Putin said: “There can be only one answer to this – stepping up the fight against terrorism, and the bandits will feel this.”

As preliminary investigations into the event revealed, the attacker is an off-duty Turkish policeman. The Turkish interior ministry named the attacker as Mevlut Mert Altıntas, an officer in Ankara’s riot police squad, who was born in 1994 in Aydin and graduated from Izmir police academy.

The chilling assassination was captured on video. In the footage, the Russian ambassador was lying down dead while the attacker pointed a pistol to the ceiling and yelled in Turkish.

The Turkish government has expressed sadness over the incidence and sent condolences to the Russian government.

“It has saddened us and our people. I offer my condolences to the Russian federation and the Russian people,” Suleyman Soylu, the Turkish interior minster, told reporters.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, called Putin on Monday evening to brief him on the attack.

The Russian president cancelled a planned trip to the theatre on Monday evening and called an urgent meeting with his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the heads of the security services.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign relations committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said: “A tragedy of this scale has not happened since the time of Griboyedov. There have been attacks on our Russian and Soviet diplomats, but not something this dramatic.”

Kosachev said the repercussions of the killing on Russian-Turkish relations would depend on the details of the incident: “It could have been a planned terrorist attack by extremists or it could be the work of a lone maniac. After we know, we’ll be able to understand how this will affect Russian-Turkish relations.”

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