In Brief

Russian Ambassador to Turkey Assassinated at Art Opening in Ankara

Ambassador Andrey Karlov was killed by an off-duty police officer who, after firing the fatal shots, shouted, “Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria.”

Andrey Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, has died after being shot at the opening of a photography exhibition today in Ankara. Video of the assassination shows Karlov speaking at the event when he was shot in the back, allegedly by a man posing as a guard. The suspect, who was subsequently killed by Turkish Special Forces, was a 22-year-old off-duty police officer named Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş.

The exhibition, titled Russia in the Eyes of Turks, was reportedly organized by the Russian embassy and taking place at Ankara’s municipal art gallery, Çankaya Belediyesi. According to the Associated Press, Altıntaş fired a total of eight shots and smashed several of the photographs on view.

(Warning: video includes graphic violence.)

After shooting Karlov, Altıntaş can be heard in the video shouting in Turkish. “Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria,” he says, according to the Guardian. “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 repeats the Arabic phrase “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”).

While Russia has worked with Turkey in the past week to secure the evacuation of residents from eastern Aleppo, it had previously vetoed — five times — United Nations Security Council measures to prevent further bombings and civilian deaths. The resulting destruction and loss of life caused four Syrian human rights and medical groups to declare, in a letter to the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, that “Russia has committed or been complicit in war crimes in Syria.” And on Friday, during his final press conference as US President, Barack Obama criticized Russia for blocking humanitarian aid from reaching Syria, and for supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s régime. The country’s years of assistance to the Syrian government have drawn international criticism; protests took place in Istanbul last week in front of the Russian consulate there.

Karlov, who was 62, had been Russia’s ambassador to Turkey since 2013. Prior to that posting he had served in various capacities in the Russian embassy in North Korea, including as ambassador from 2001 to 2006.

“The United States condemns the assassination today in Ankara of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “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.”

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