An off-duty Turkish police officer assassinated Russia’s ambassador to Turkey today at the Cagdas Sanat Merkezi art museum in the Turkish capital of Ankara. The attack was captured by television cameras. Ambassador Andrey Karlov was giving a speech to mark the opening of an art exhibit. The gunman, identified as Turkish police officer Melvut Mert Altintas also wounded three others in the attack on Karlov. Altintas was killed in a shootout with Turkish police officers afterwards.
As Altintas opened fire he shouted, “Don’t forget Aleppo.” In a video of the incident now making rounds on social media, he is also heard saying, “Allahu akbar (God is greatest). Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria!”
The long-term implications are not clear right now, but Russian and Turkish officials seem to be downplaying the chances of this assassination leading to a new rupture in Turk-Russian relations, which have been mending since the Turkish shoot down of a Russian aircraft last year. Vladimir Putin called this an act of terror and laid the blame squarely at the feet of terrorists. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a speech given Monday night, stated that the attack was likely an attempt to disrupt the normalization of relations between Russia and Turkey and that neither nation would be seduced by the provocation.
The attack also comes after a week of protests by Turks against Russia’s support for the Syrian government. The fall of Aleppo, and Russia’s part in the effort resulted in angry protests and may have served as the catalyst for Altinta’s action.
Even though Russia and Turkey are treading carefully, and holding back from making any provocative statements, that could change rather quickly. The situation is very fluid and what comes about in the next 36 hours will tell us a lot about how far the implications of this assassination will stretch.
*Author’s Note- I’m aware of today’s Berlin incident, however, time is at a premium right now. I will be discussing that situation tomorrow.*