The Russian ambassador to Turkey was tonight shot dead by an off-duty Turkish police officer at an art gallery in Ankara in 'revenge' for the conflict in Syria.
Ambassador Andrei Karlov, 62, was shot several times from behind by a gunman shouting: 'Allahu Akbar (God is Great). We die in Aleppo, you die here!' He also screamed: 'Only death will take me out of here.'
The shooter, who was wearing a suit and tie, has been identified as Mevlüt Mert Altintas, 22, a member of Ankara's police riot squad. He reportedly fired into the air before taking aim at the ambassador.
He then turned weapon on others in the gallery, injuring three people before he was shot dead in a 15-minute stand-off with police.
Russian president Vladimir Putin condemned the attack, saying: ‘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.’
He ordered security at Russian embassies to be stepped up and said he wanted to know who had ‘directed’ the gunman’s hand.
The assassination follows days of protests in Turkey over Russia's role in Syria and comes just one day before the Russians are due to host Turkey and Iran's foreign ministers for talks on the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo.
The ambassador was attending an art exhibition called ‘Russia as seen by Turks’ when Altintas entered the gallery – around 100 yards from the US embassy – by allegedly showing his police officer badge.
The gunman, who had been a policeman for two-and-a-half years, was seen standing calmly behind Mr Karlov before the attack. As Mr Karlov lay dying on the floor, Altintas shot him at least once more at close range.
The horrific scene was filmed by journalists covering the opening. Footage shows Altintas shouting ‘Allahu akbar [God is great]’ as Mr Karlov falls to the ground.
President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that the killing of Russia's ambassador to Turkey was a despicable provocation aimed at spoiling Russia-Turkey ties and derailing Moscow's attempts to find, with Iran and Turkey, a solution for the Syria crisis.
In televised comments, Putin, speaking at a special meeting in the Kremlin, ordered security at Russian embassies around the world to be stepped up and said he wanted to know who had "directed" the gunman's hand.
He heaped praise on the murdered Russian ambassador, Andrei Karlov, who was shot in the back and killed as he gave a speech at an Ankara art gallery, and made clear that Moscow's response to his assassination would be robust.
"A crime has been committed and it was without doubt a provocation aimed at spoiling the normalization 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."
Putin, who said he personally knew the slain envoy, said he had agreed in a phone call with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan that Russian investigators would soon fly to Ankara to help the Turks with the investigation.
"We must know who directed the killer's hand," Putin told Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Sergei Naryshkin, the head of his SVR foreign intelligence service, and Alexander Bortnikov, the head of the domestic FSB security service.
Putin ordered security at Turkish diplomatic facilities in Russia to be stepped up and said he wanted guarantees from Turkey about the safety of Russian diplomatic facilities.
"I also ask you to implement the agreed proposals on strengthening security at Russian diplomatic facilities abroad," Putin told the meeting.