Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was gunned down Monday in Ankara while attending a photographic art exhibit called “Russia as seen by Turks.”
The gunman was identified as Mevlut Mert Aydintas, 22, of the Ankara riot police. Aydintas could be heard yelling “don’t forget about Aleppo, don’t forget about Syria” before saying “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) and firing eight shots at the Russian diplomat.
Karlov was rushed to the hospital; however, the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed his death shortly afterwards. The gunman is said to have died in a shootout with Turkish police soon after the incident.
Protests erupted in Turkey the day before due to Russia’s support for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey’s president claimed the attack was aimed at hurting ties between the two countries that have been trying to mend ties since a Russian fighter jet was shot down over Turkey in July 2013.
Many people are comparing the shooting to the 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that is said to have sparked World War I. However tempting it may be to make this claim, Turkey and Russia have been working hard on building better relations and this event is unlikely to spark World War III.
According to BBC’s Mark Lowen, the Turkish and Russian governments had been cooperating on a ceasefire in Syria. Russian President Vladamir Putin said the incident was at attempt to disrupt “the peace process in Syria that is being actively advanced by Russia, Turkey, and Iran.”
Karlov was a diplomatic veteran, having served as ambassador to North Korea throughout much of the 1980s. The tragic shooting has been considered an act of terrorism and has been condemned by United Nations Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and much of the international community including France, Germany, and the UK.
Secretary of State John Kerry said, “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.”
Maria Zakharova of the Russian Foreign Ministry said Russia will investigate the travesty and said “The memory of this outstanding Russian diplomat, a man who did so much to counter terrorism… will remain in our hearts forever.”