Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was assassinated at an art exhibition in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Dec. 19, Russia and Turkey have confirmed.
Karlov was shot with a gun while making a speech at a photography exhibition in the Turkish capital, the Russian Embassy said, adding that it believed that it was a radical Islamist attack.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova later announced that Karlov succumbed to his wounds.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also confirmed Karlov’s death in a written statement, adding that the perpetrators would face justice for their action.
The ministry designated the attack on Karlov as a “terror attack.”
Accompanied by Health Minister Recep Akdağ and Defense Minister Fikri Işık, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu later announced that the attacker was a 22-year-old police officer identified as Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş.
Soylu said Altıntaş was born on June 24, 1994, in the Söke district of the western province of Aydın.
The minister also added that Altıntaş had been on duty for two-and-a half years at the riot police unit in Ankara and was a graduate of a police vocational school in İzmir.
Soylu said three more people were wounded in the attack, which he described as a “provocation,” adding that while one of them was discharged from hospital, the other two injured were being treated in hospital.
Soylu said Altıntaş was “neutralized” in a special operations police operation at the scene.
He said the attack occurred at around 7:05 p.m. (4:05 p.m. GMT) in Ankara at a photograph exhibition at an art gallery in Ankara’s central Çankaya district.
He added that Karlov did not respond to efforts to resuscitate him at the Güven Hospital at 7:53 p.m. (4:53 p.m. GMT).
“Our dear friend lost his life,” Soylu said.
Attacker’s family detained
Meanwhile, Altıntaş’s mother and sister were detained in an operation at their residence in Söke, CNN Türk reported.
In addition, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said he “vehemently condemns the dastardly and bloodthirstily slaughter” of Karlov.
The president said the assassination was an “open provocation” made against Turkey-Russia relations, adding that he and Putin had agreed that this was an act provocation.
“As we have agreed with Putin, we will launch a joint investigation commission,” said Erdoğan.
Erdoğan added that Turkey would increase security measures around Russian diplomatic buildings and people.
Meanwhile, Putin also described the assassination of Karlov as “a provocation.”
"A crime has been committed and it was without doubt a provocation aimed at spoiling the normalisation of Russo-Turkish relations and spoiling the Syrian peace process which is being actively pushed by Russia, Turkey, Iran and others," said a stern-faced Putin.
"There can only be one response - stepping up the fight against terrorism. The bandits will feel this happening."
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters Dec. 19 in Moscow, where he went to attend a tripartite meeting with his Russian and Iranian counterparts over Syria, that the killing of Karlov was aimed not only at him personally but also at Turkey, Russia and Turkish-Russian ties.
“It was an attack to deter relations between Russia and Turkey, which have both showed a will to mend ties,” Çavuşoğlu said late Dec. 19 after landing in Moscow.
“Such heinous attacks cannot deter our relations,” he said, adding that enhancing relations between the two countries were not only important for Turkey and Russia but also for the region.
Hürriyet Ankara representative Deniz Zeyrek said the attacker first shot into the air before shooting the envoy in the back.
He shot the envoy a second time after others at the gathering fled. It has also been reported that the attacker entered the scene by showing a police identity and wearing a suit.
The assailant reportedly took 11 shots, nine of them targeting the envoy.
‘Don’t forget Aleppo,’ shouts assailant
The attacker reportedly shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria! As long as our brothers are not safe, you will not enjoy safety,” according to footage released on Dutch website nos.nl.
“Whoever has a share in this oppression will pay for it one by one,” he added.
“Only death will take me away from here,” he said. He also recited “God is great” before speaking in Turkish.
Soylu later arrived at the scene.
The Kremlin said Putin was studying a report on the attack.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also said the Russian side was in contact with Turkish authorities about the attack.
The exhibition was being held by the embassy at a cultural center in central Ankara.
A private guard does not accompany Karlov on such public occasions.
Ahead of tripartite talks
The attack came one day before talks on Syria among Çavuşoğlu and his respective Russian and Iranian counterparts, Sergei Lavrov and Javad Zarif.
Karlov, who started his career as a diplomat in 1976, worked extensively in North Korea over three decades before moving to Ankara in 2007, according to a biography on the Russian Embassy’s website. He became ambassador in July 2013.
“There will be no fresh cooling in relations between Moscow and Ankara, no matter how strongly our strategic opponents in Ankara and the West want this,” said Leonid Slutsky, who heads the international affairs committee of the Russian Duma, according to the BBC.
“This is not going to happen. There are differences between us. It’s a horrendous tragedy, but relations between our states will not suffer,” Slutsky said.
US, UK, NATO condemn attack
Meanwhile, the attack drew condemnations from world leaders and international organizations.
“I condemn in the strongest terms the heinous attack on Ambassador Karlov tonight,” the U.S. Embassy tweeted quoting Ambassador John Bass after the attack.
The U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also issued a statement, condemning the gun attack.
“The United States condemns the assassination today in Ankara of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones, the Russian people, and with the other victims who were injured in this shooting. We stand ready to offer assistance to Russia and Turkey as they investigate this despicable attack, which was also an assault on the right of all diplomats to safely and securely advance and represent their nations around the world,” the statement read.
The U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby condemned the attack.
“We have seen reports that the Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov and others have been attacked by a gunman in #Ankara. We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” Kirby tweeted.
“Shocked to hear of despicable murder of #Russia’s Ambassador to #Turkey. My thoughts are with his family. I condemn this cowardly attack,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson tweeted.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg also condemned the gun attack.
“I condemn the killing of Russia’s amb to Turkey. My condolences to his family & Russian people. No justification for such a heinous act,” Stoltenberg tweeted.
Meanwhile, Pedro Agramunt, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) condemned the assassination in a statement.
“I strongly condemn today’s heinous terrorist attack which targeted the Ambassador of the Russian Federation in Turkey. I send my sincerest sympathies to the family of Ambassador Karlov, to his colleagues and friends, as well as to all Russian diplomats," Agramunt said, expressing solidarity with fight against terrorism.
Council of Europe Secretary General Jagland also extended his condolences after the attack.
"I am shocked and deeply saddened by the assassination of the Russian Federation's Ambassador to Turkey in Ankara today. I present my sincere condolences to the Russian authorities and to the family and colleagues of Ambassador Karlov. All of us at the Council of Europe express our solidarity with our member state Russia," Jagland said.
Relations between Turkey and Russia came to a halt after the former downed a fighter jet belonging to the latter along its border with Syria on the grounds of an air space violation on Nov. 24, 2015. Russia denied any breach of Turkish air space.
It was not until late June when Erdoğan penned a letter to Putin that a rapprochement started.
Since then, the countries have started to mend their strained ties, with the two leaders meeting three times in person amid the lifting of a Russian ban on travel to Turkey.
The two countries recently cooperated and reached a deal over a cease-fire for besieged eastern Aleppo and an evacuation of rebels and civilians from the city.
The evacuation started on Dec. 15 and was continuing on Dec. 19.