Russian ambassador shot dead in Turkey as Syria roils region

Bloomberg reports: Russia’s ambassador was shot dead in the Turkish capital on Monday in an assassination apparently linked to Syria’s civil war, heightening tensions over a conflict that’s drawn in almost all the region’s main powers.

Andrey Karlov was shot in the back at an art exhibit in Ankara on Monday and died from his injuries, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. “Don’t forget Aleppo,” the gunman shouted, in a reference to the Syrian city where mostly Islamist rebels have been defeated this month by Russian-backed government troops. The attacker, who was killed by security forces, was a 22-year-old active-duty police officer. His possible connection with organized groups is being probed, Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said.

Russia and Turkey signaled that they don’t want the attack on the ambassador to turn into another flashpoint between countries that are engaged on opposite sides of the Syrian war, a recurring risk in a conflict with multiple armed parties and outside backers. Their relations came under heavy strain after the Turkish military shot down a Russian plane last year, and both governments have since made an effort to repair them.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in televised remarks that Karlov’s killing was an “open provocation” aimed at undermining the search for peace in Syria and the normalization of ties with Turkey, and he said the response will be stronger cooperation between the countries. Putin’s Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed, saying they’ll jointly investigate the attack and won’t allow it to disrupt a collaboration that’s crucial for the region. [Continue reading…]

The Daily Beast reports: Reaction in both Russia and Turkey has been swift, incensed and conspiratorial.

Alexey Pushkov, the former head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian State Duma, or lower house of parliament, has claimed the killing was a direct result of media “hysteria” concerning Aleppo, purveyed by “enemies” of Moscow. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a far-right Russian nationalist parliamentarian, claimed that the West orchestrated the shooting to prevent Turkish-Russian rapprochement following close to a year of a breach, which has gradually narrowed in recent months.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova issued a statement: “Terrorism will not pass! We will fight it resolutely. Memory of this outstanding Russian diplomat, a man who did so much to counter terrorism in his diplomatic line of work, Andrei Gennadyevich Karlov, will remain in our hearts forever.”

Meanwhile, pro-government journalists in Turkey are beginning to suggest that the assassin was affiliated with the Islamist movement of exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is widely blamed in the country for orchestrating last July’s abortive coup. (He lives in the Poconos of Pennsylvania and Turkey is seeking his extradition from the United States.) [Continue reading…]

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