VIDEO: Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov shot dead in Ankara gallery
Andrei Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, right, with the gunman, left. Picture: AP
Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the killing of Ambassador Andrei Karlov at the hands of a Turkish police officer as a “provocation aimed at derailing Russia-Turkey ties and the peace process in Syria.”
Mr Putin’s televised comments, made during a meeting with senior officials, seem to show that Mr Putin is determined not to let the tragedy in Ankara lead to dimplomatic tensions between the two countries.
His remarks were echoed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who, in a video message shown on several Turkish TV channels, said the ambassador’s assassination was “a provocation to damage the normalization process of Turkish-Russian relations.”
He added: “But both the Russian and Turkish administrations have the determination not to fall for this provocation.”
Both leaders said that Russian investigators will be part of the official probe into the assassination.
“Radical Islamist terrorist”
US President-elect Donald Trump has called the assassin of the Russian ambassador to Ankara a “radical Islamist terrorist,” in a rare formal statement.
Mr Trump, who usually takes to Twitter to issue reactions, condemned the assassination in his statement, saying: “Today we offer our condolences to the family and loved ones of Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov, who was assassinated by a radical Islamic terrorist.”
“The murder of an ambassador is a violation of all rules of civilized order and must be universally condemned.”
Both Russia and Turkey have branded the brazen attack by a Turkish policeman at an art exhibition as an “act of terror.”
Television cameras captured the moment Mr Karlov crumpled to the floor. The gunman, identified as Mevlut Mert Altintas brandished his pistol and raised a single finger to emphasise the oneness of God in Islam, crying in Turkish: “All those who participate in this tyranny will be held accountable”.
As he paced back and forth beside the envoy’s motionless body, terrified cries could be heard off-camera. He raised his weapon in both hands and levelled it at other people, but without firing.
You are killing defenceless children there, so you will die here,” Russian media quoted him as saying.
Mr Trump later tweeted: “Today there are terror attacksin Turkey, Switzerland and Germany - and it is only getting worse. The civilised world must change thinking!”
The assassin of the Russian ambassador to Ankara was a 22-year-old from a quiet region in the west of Turkey who had served with the anti-riot police for less than three years.
The man identified as Mevlut Mert Altintas shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) and “Don’t forget Aleppo” as he waved his gun around at a cultural centre in the Turkish capital.
But there has yet to be any indication Altintas, who was later “neutralised” by police, was attracted to religious extremism or had any history of activism.
Images showed Altintas smartly dressed in a suit, tie and white shirt pull out a gun and fire at ambassador Andre Karlov from behind as the envoy opened a Russian photography exhibition in Ankara.
He then threatened terrified spectators, yelling “Allahu Akbar” and saying that the murder was vengeance for Russia’s actions in the war-battered Syrian city of Aleppo.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Altintas was born in the town of Soke in Aydin province in western Turkey and attended a special school for training future policemen.
Altintas then joined the Ankara anti-riot police — the Cevik Kuvvet in Turkish — and had worked there for the last two-and-a-half-years.
The region of Aydin on the Aegean coast is one of Turkey’s most peaceful regions well away from trouble-spots and the country’s most religiously conservative areas.
After the attack on Karlov, Altintas refused to surrender and remained inside the exhibition centre as clashes took place with police for 15 minutes.
But he was then killed by police in an operation, authorities said. Reports said that his mother, father and sister were immediately detained for questioning in their homes in western Turkey.
The mayor of Ankara, Melih Gokcek, known for his outspoken comments, speculated on his official Twitter account that the attacker may be linked to the group of Fethullah Gulen blamed for the July 15 coup aimed at toppling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
His suggestion has yet to be echoed by other officials.
In footage from the scene, Altintas talks about pledging allegiance to jihad in Arabic.
Switching to Turkish, he then says: “Don’t forget about Syria, don’t forget about Aleppo. All those who participate in this tyranny will be held accountable”.
The attack came after days of angry protests in Turkey over Russia’s actions in Syria in support of President Bashar al-Assad.
But Mr Erdogan has spearheaded a rapprochement with Russia in recent months and the two countries had been working closely to remove civilians from war-torn Aleppo.
‘This is for Aleppo’
A senior Russian politician has accused the secret service operatives of a NATO ally of a vicious assassination of its Russian ambassador in Turkey.
The ambassador, Andrey Karlov, was holding a press conference at the Ankara Centre for Contemporary Art in the Turkish capital overnight when an off duty Turkish police officer, standing behind Mr Karlov pulled a gun and shot him repeatedly in the back and head at close range.
Shocked journalists attending the opening of the gallery filmed the attack, which shows the gunman raising his arm victoriously in the air and shouting “Allah Akbar, we die in Aleppo, you die here.’’ He then screamed at the reporters. “You are killing defenceless children there, so you will die here. Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria, stand back, stand back, only death will take me out of here. Anyone who has a role in this oppression will die one by one.’’
The gunman was then killed by Turkey police officers.
GRAPHIC WARNING: Russian Ambassador to Turkey Assassinated in Ankara
The killer was named locally as Mevlut Mert Aktinus, a 22-year-old off duty Special Forces policeman.
Immediately after the attack Russian senator Frantz Klintsevich, one of the most experienced Russian politicians, said “This was a planned attack. Everyone knew he was going to attend the photo exhibition. It could be Islamic State or the Kurdish army which tries to hurt (Turkey president Recep) Erdogan. But it may be, and it is highly likely, that representatives of foreign NATO secret service are behind it. What has happened is a true provocation.’’
A spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry Maria Zakharova said the event was an act of terror and was a tragic act.
“We characterise what happened as an act of terrorism,’’ she said. “We stay in touch in with Turkish officials who have assured us that the most thorough and comprehensive investigation (will happen). The murderers will be punished.’’
Spectators are evacuated from the gallery in Ankara. Picture: AP
Mr Karlov, 56, had previously been the Russian ambassador to North Korea and had been the top Russian diploma in Turkey for the past three years.
The Australian government has condemned the deadly attack.
“Aust govt condemns shocking attack on Russian Ambassador in Turkey — I extend my condolences to his family, loved ones & Russian people,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has tweeted.