Envoys’ killers won’t succeed in hurting ties with Turkey: Russia
Russian media on Tuesday reacted with outrage to the killing of the country’s ambassador to Turkey but said it was unlikely to derail warming ties between Moscow and Ankara.
Ambassador Andrei Karlov, 62, was gunned down on Monday at the opening of a Russian photography exhibition in Ankara by a Turkish policeman crying “Aleppo” and “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest), in what Moscow called a “terrorist act”.
“The murderer was afraid to look him in the eye,” ran the banner frontpage headline on pro-Kremlin paper Izvestiya above a dramatic picture of Karlov with his killer looming behind.
They did not shoot at Karlov. They shot at Russia,” Senator Konstantin Kosachev said in comments published alongside.
Both Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the attack a “provocation” aimed at sabotaging ties that have been patched up since a furious dispute over Ankara’s downing of a Russian jet in Syria in November 2015.
Putin also said that the killing in Ankara was designed to undermine efforts to find a settlement on the conflict in Syria that are currently being spearheaded by Russia and Turkey.
Moscow and Ankara are on different sides of the conflict in Syria but the two countries have worked closely together to evacuate citizens from the battered city of Aleppo.
The foreign and defence ministers from Russia, Turkey and Iran are set to meet on Tuesday in Moscow for key talks on Syria.
“I don’t think that Moscow will provoke conflict” over the incident, Leonid Isayev of Moscow’s Higher School of Economics said.
“On Tuesday dialogue between Russia and Turkey is developing quite actively.”
In an interview with Izvestiya, the head of Russia’s parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, Leonid Slutsky, warned those who try to drive a wedge between Russia and Turkey would fail. “The main thing is that there will not be a new round of tensions between Russia and Turkey, no matter how much our opponents want this,” he said.
“This was a terrible tragedy, but interstate relations overall will not suffer from this.”
Ankara on high alert; Turkey detains six over assassination
Turkish authorities were on Tuesday holding six people over the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Ankara by an off-duty policeman, as Russia urgently sought answers over the murder.
With the Turkish capital already on high alert after a string of attacks this year, an individual also fired outside the US embassy in Ankara overnight in a separate incident.
President Vladimir Putin declared “we have to know who directed the hand of the killer” and the Kremlin said a Russian investigative team were flying to Turkey to probe the murder.
An unprecedented three-way meeting between the foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia and Iran in Moscow over the Syria crisis was meanwhile set to go ahead despite the killing.
Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot four times in the back by Turkish policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, as he opened an exhibition of Russian photography in Ankara.
Dramatic images showed Karlov stumble and then crash to the ground on his back as the attacker brandished his gun at terrified onlookers who cowered behind cocktail tables.
The gunman shouted and then said all those responsible for what has happened in Syria and Aleppo would be held accountable.
Altintas had set off the metal detector security check when he entered the exhibition in central Ankara as he was carrying a gun, the pro-government Sabah daily said.
But after showing his police ID, he was waved through and allowed to proceed.
The Hurriyet daily added that Altintas, who had worked for Ankara’s anti-riot police for the last two and a half years, had stayed at a nearby hotel to prepare for the attack.
It said Altintas, who was off duty at the time, had put on a suit and tie and shaved at the hotel before heading to the exhibition centre.
He was later killed by police after a shootout that lasted over 15 minutes.
Altintas was born in the town of Soke in Aydin province in western Turkey and attended a special school for training future policemen.
Six people have been detained over the attack, including the sister, mother, father and uncle of Altintas, Turkish media said.
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.