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Russian Ambassador To Turkey Assassinated In Ankara

Russian Ambassador Turkey Assassination

The Russian Ambassador to Turkey was shot and killed today:

ISTANBUL — Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was assassinated at an Ankara art exhibit on Monday evening by a lone Turkish gunman shouting “God is great!” and “don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!” in what Russia called a terrorist attack.

The gunman, who was described by Ankara’s mayor as a policeman, also wounded at least three others in the assault, which was captured on Turkish video, before he was killed by other officers in a shootout.

The assassination instantly vaulted relations between Turkey and Russia to a new level of crisis over the protracted Syria conflict on Turkey’s southern doorstep. It came after days of protests by Turks angry over Russia’s support for Syria’s government in the conflict and the Russian role in the killings and destruction in Aleppo, the northern Syrian city.

The envoy, Andrey G. Karlov, was shot from behind and immediately fell to the floor while speaking at an exhibition, according to multiple accounts from the scene, the Contemporary Arts Center in the Cankaya area of Ankara.

The gunman, wearing a dark suit and tie, was seen in video footage of the assault shouting in Arabic: “God is great! Those who pledged allegiance to Muhammad for jihad. God is great!”

Then he switched to Turkish and shouted: “Don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria! Step back! Step back! Only death can take me from here.”

Turkish officials said that the gunman was killed after a shootout with Turkish Special Forces police. The assailant’s identity was not immediately known.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, told the Rossiya 24 news channel that Mr. Karlov had died of his wounds in what she described as a terrorist attack.

CNN Turk published images showing several people lying on the floor of the gallery.

Russia’s Tass news agency initially quoted witnesses of the attack as saying that there had been an “assassination attempt” against Mr. Karlov, and that he had been shot from behind while finishing his opening remarks at the opening of the exhibition, called “Russia Through Turks’ Eyes.”

The attack was a rare instance of an assassination of any Russian envoy. Historians said it might have been the first since Pyotr Voykov, a Soviet ambassador to Poland, was shot to death in Warsaw in 1927.

While the Russian and Turkish governments back different sides in the Syria conflict, they had been collaborating in recent days in efforts to evacuate civilians from Aleppo.

More from CNN:

Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was assassinated at an art exhibition in Ankara on Monday. The gunman shouted, “Do not forget Aleppo!” as he opened fire.

The shooting of Ambassador Andrey Karlov was captured on video. Russia’s foreign ministry described it as a “terror attack.”

“We are currently in contact with Turkish authorities, who are assuring us that a thorough, comprehensive investigation will be conducted,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in remarks broadcast on Russian television. “Murderers will be punished. Terrorism won’t sustain. We’ll fight it.”

Here’s what we know right now:

• Karlov was giving a speech at the opening ceremony of a photo exhibit when an assailant opened fire.

• Images of the scene showed a body on the ground as a man with a pistol stood nearby. In a caption, The Associated Press news agency described the man with the gun as the attacker. CNN has not independently confirmed the identities of the people in the photograph.

• In a video circulating on social media that shows the shooting, the gunman is heard shouting, “Allahu akbar (God is great). Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria! Do not forget Aleppo! Do not forget Syria!” “Get back! Get back!” the man can be heard shouting in Turkish as he waves a gun.
“Only death will remove me from here. Everyone who has taken part in this oppression will one by one pay for it,” he said.

• The shooting occurred a day before diplomats from Turkey, Iran and Russia are scheduled to meet in Moscow to discuss the situation in Aleppo.

• Authorities haven’t said who they believe was responsible for the attack.

• Anadolu reported that the gunman had been neutralized. But it was not immediately clear whether the attacker was killed or captured by police.

• The attack occurred at the Cagdas Sanat Merkezi modern arts center in Ankara.

• The foreign ministry described Karlov as an “outstanding diplomat.”

“He’s a diplomat who’s contributed a lot in fighting terrorism during his career,” Zakharova said.

The ambassador began his diplomatic career in 1976 and has been the envoy to Turkey since 2013, according to a profile on the website for the Russian Embassy in Ankara.

The shooting of the ambassador is the latest in a long string of attacks in Turkey this year, although it’s the first in recent memory to be directed at a foreign dignitary. \

A car bomb exploded near a public bus in the central province of Kayserion Saturday, killing 13 soldiers and wounding 55 people, according to Turkish officials.

The attack came exactly a week after a pair of bombings in Istanbul killed 44 people, including 37 police officers, and injured 155 others. The explosions, which occurred after a heavily attended soccer game at Besiktas Vodafone Arena, were claimed by a Kurdish militant group called the Kurdish Freedom Hawks.

So far no outside organizations have claimed responsibility or taken credit for this attack, so it’s unknown if the gunman was acting on his own or as part of a wider conspiracy that may be connected in some way to the other terror attacks that have gripped Turkey over the course of the past year. Just from the description of what happened, though, it seems clear that the gunman was at least likely inspired in some way by such groups in the same way that the attackers in Paris, Belgium, and San Bernardino were. Given how close Turkey is to the conflict in Syria, it’s not hard to believe that ISIS or some other group involved in the Syrian civil war may be behind this, of course, but unless someone claims responsibility we may never know for sure whether this man acted alone, or whether he was part of a wider conspiracy that has been behind many of the attacks in Turkey over the past several months.

This attack comes at the same time that the Russians and Turkey have ostensibly been working together to assist in the evacuation of civilians from Aleppo, where tens of thousands of people have died mostly at the hands of Russia’s allies in Syria, the government of Bashar Assad. Indeed, in recent months, Syrian Army and Air power has been relentlessly pounding alleged rebel strongholds in Aleppo and making an impossible situation for civilians even worse. It was only recently, through its cooperation regarding evacuation with the Turks that the Russians have shown any real concern for these civilian casualties. Before then, as well as in the past several weeks, they have instead been acting to seemingly make it harder for outside powers such as the United Nations to provide aid to people attempting to get out of the city and the region around it, and vetoing United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding the situation in Alleppo. Their sudden concern for civilians is, quite honestly, rather suspicious.

In any case, as with anything like this happens, the assassination of Ambassador Karlov is setting off a whole round of speculation about what might happen next. Not unexpectedly, many commentators online have quickly made analogies to the June 1914 assassination of Austro-Hungarian Duke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by a Serbian nationalist. That event, of course, set in course a series of events that led to World War One. It’s far too early, of course, and far too simplistic to make such a simplistic analogy. For one thing, the assassination in Sarajevo may have been the spark that set off a war, but it was not the reason for war. Without going into a long-winded summary of the politics of Central Europe in the second decade of the 20th Century, the assassination was merely the straw the broke the camel’s back, and it’s highly likely that the continent would have been at war within a year or so in any case regardless of whether or not that assassination had succeeded. The Middle East is admittedly also a powder keg right now as well, but that doesn’t mean that history will play itself out the same way it did a century ago. For one thing, much depends on how the Russians react to all this. There were fears of Russian retaliation, for example, when the Turks shot down Russian jets that had strayed into their territory for about 27 seconds, but other than economic sanctions nothing serious ever developed out of that.

Where we go from here is anyone’s guess right now. It could be a one-off attack that has little future consequences, or it could be the spark of another decade of war. Too bad, we’re about to get a U.S. President with absolutely no clue when it comes to foreign policy.

Photo via The New York Times

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    I’m pretty sure that Dumb-Don has the diplomatic skill and nuance necessary to negotiate his way thru complex and tricky situations.
    Not…
    I promise you that we will be embroiled in a major conflict…one that makes Iraq look silly…before his 4 years is done.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Where we go from here is anyone’s guess right now. It could be a one-off attack that has little future consequences, or it could be the spark of another decade of war. Too bad, we’re about to get a U.S. President with absolutely no clue when it comes to foreign policy.

    I think that’s a pretty fair conclusion. There are other issues between Russia and Turkey than the one you mentioned (Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian jet). For example, there’s Turkey’s support for the Chechens during the First and Second Chechen Wars. Then there’s Turkish support for the Syrian rebels against the Assad government.

    On the other hand Russia is Turkey’s second largest trading partner (after Germany) and given the fragility of both parties’ economies they have good reason to avoid trouble.

    We can only hope that cooler heads prevail. Going back to the WWI analogy, nobody wanted that to turn into war, either.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  3. C. Clavin says:

    @C. Clavin:
    The Obama doctrine is simple…don’t do anything stupid. And while he certainly has had some hiccups…that doctrine has been, by-and-large, pretty successful.
    Trump has yet to show that he can do anything that isn’t stupid.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 4

  4. Turkey controls the Bosporus Strait – meaning, they control the only direct acess that the Russians have to Mediterranean (Novorossiysk, the main russian port, is completely useless without the Bosporus).

    Turkey has the upper hand here, nothing will happen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. the Q says:

    Thank Allah that the Muslim Obama has kept us out of that schitt-mess in Syria against all advice by his secretary of state, the Pentagon, wingnut neocons, and some of his own party advisers.

    Can anyone imagine the reaction by wingnuts had an American passenger jet been shot down, one of our F-22s shot down and then our U.S. ambassador ambushed and assassinated had Obama gotten us further enmeshed in Syria?

    Its not too far of a guess that some would actually want to lynch a sitting POTUS based on their Benghazi reaction.

    Backing Syrian “rebels” like the Hillary wanted to do two years ago would have been almost as big a clusterfphuck than the Iraq fiasco.

    Lets see how big strong bad azz Putin reacts. My bet? He’s a russian pussy that has been far too over estimated in his threats. He will do what he did after seeing his two planes get waxed – NOTHING.

    Let that idiot wallow in Syria. Let him face the wrath of ISIS. Obama has to be laughing all the way to the funeral.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

  6. James Pearce says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Trump has yet to show that he can do anything that isn’t stupid.

    Trump’s not even president yet….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  7. Stormy Dragon says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I promise you that we will be embroiled in a major conflict…one that makes Iraq look silly…before his 4 years is done.

    As opposed to Clinton, who was campaigning on starting a war with Russia over Syria?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 10

  8. C. Clavin says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    You’re right…we are much safer with the Cheeto-Jesus in office.
    He only wants to go to war with China.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  9. C. Clavin says:

    @James Pearce:

    Trump’s not even president yet

    Exactly…he’s a dumbest fwcker, besides Pence, I’ve ever heard speak, and that’s with no pressure on him…just try to imagine when it gets intense and he’s really on the spot.
    He’ll be firing out tweets from the war-room…it will be un-presidented.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  10. James Pearce says:

    @C. Clavin:

    we are much safer with the Cheeto-Jesus in office.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last 15 years, it’s this:

    It doesn’t matter who’s in office. We’re not safe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  11. grumpy realist says:

    @Dave Schuler: Schliessen Doctrine: “Mobilization means war.” Everyone believed it. No one thought that they could stop halfway through. Once the soldiers were on the battlefield, might as well use them, no?

    A.J.P. Taylor pointed out it was the railroad timetables that ended up leading to the avalanche. No one thought of taking the soldiers OFF the potential battlefield and standing down.

    Am afraid we have similarly stupid people in charge today. Hate to think that our good luck may ride on the intelligence of Russia (Putin) and whoever’s in charge in China. And we won’t have the latter if Trump keeps teasing the cat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  12. bill says:

    @C. Clavin: whenever you think you’ve heard the stupidest thing/person ever- google the speakings of sheila jackson lee.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

  13. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: I was always mystified by the inept response of the European governments in 1914 as they stumbled into a war no one really wanted. Then we watched their successors’ response to the ’08 financial crisis. No matter what happens to us collectively, we/I must win.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  14. James Pearce says:

    @C. Clavin:

    He’ll be firing out tweets from the war-room

    No doubt.

    But this is my point: For the next 4-8 years, I plan on opposing Trump’s presidency but on the merits. He appears to be a rather awful man who is in way over his head. Bad things will happen because of his election.

    But we won’t be able to blame him for all bad things.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    “Given how close Turkey is to the conflict in Syria, it’s not hard to believe that ISIS or some other group involved in the Syrian civil war may be behind this, of course, but unless someone claims responsibility we may never know for sure whether this man acted alone, or whether he was part of a wider conspiracy that has been behind many of the attacks in Turkey over the past several months.”

    Given the carnage in Allepo, someone needn’t the inspiration of ISIS or others to view an assassination as justified.

    As David Frum pointed out in a post at the Atlantic, A Russian-Turkish war won’t start unless one side or the other wants the war and there is no evidence of that. Frankly, if the war stayed conventional, the Turks would likely win, given how weak the Russian state is and how debilitated its military capabilities are.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/12/andrey-karlov-turkey-1914/511124/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. J-Dub says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    the Russian state is and how debilitated its military capabilities are

    Debilitated? I guess you’ve never seen their aircraft carrier!

    http://www.rferl.org/a/russia-aircraft-carrier-kuznetsov-second-warplane-lost/28157018.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Tyrell says:

    @C. Clavin: That is a good assessment. I would add: “don’t make a bad situation worse”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Sleeping Dog says:

    @J-Dub:

    Yup debilitated.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. SKI says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Going back to the WWI analogy, nobody wanted that to turn into war, either.

    Actually, The History You Know Is Wrong

    Since the 1960s, it has been widely understood among historians that far from being a collective failure of diplomacy or the result of entangling alliances, World War I was engineered deliberately by Germany.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. JDM says:

    David Frum has a good article in The Atlantic that parallel’s with what Doug Mataconis has written.

    The Ankara Shooting Won’t Start World War III
    Assassinations can make good excuses for military conflict, but they don’t cause it.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/12/andrey-karlov-turkey-1914/511124/#article-comments

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. JDM says:

    @Sleeping Dog: Sorry for repeating your post. I need to read all the posts before I post. But great minds do think alike.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Hal_10000 says:

    @SKI:

    Agreed. WWI was something people at the time *wanted*. As the great sage Black Adder said, the reason the war started was because it was too much trouble not to have a war. People cheered in the streets when war was declared. I can’t see that happening today. Even wars of choice that everyone supports are seen as grim things.

    The good news is that the Western nations aren’t currently led by dumb nationalists who think of war as …

    oh. Dang.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  23. Guarneri says:

    @bill:

    Cmon now. At least she doesn’t think Guam is going to tip over.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  24. michilines says:

    @bill:

    When someone goes to the black woman who gets re-elected despite our best efforts card, then you know he’s done.

    He must also be from Houston, since the only people who care about her are from there.

    This is really horrible. I’ve never felt like trying to hide from all of this so much in my life. While it is easy for people like James Pearce to be flippant, this whole thing affects me and my family and my friends. We can’t all run off to another land. In fact none of us can.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  25. MBunge says:

    Just because…you know…facts are important, I believe Trump was the one candidate in the Presidential race who was smart enough to want to keep us far away from the mess in Syria. Everyone else, including Pence, wanted/wants us more involved.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  26. J-Dub says:

    @MBunge: I don’t know that the words “Trump” and “facts” belong in the same sentence. Besides, I thought he wanted to “bomb the sh** out of ISIS”? Hard to do that and also stay out of the mess in Syria.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  27. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @J-Dub: It can’t catapult a jet off the deck with a full load of either fuel or ordnance, which limits its usefulness in action,

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @SKI: That was historian Fritz Fischer’s thesis. More recent scholarship has focused on the three-cornered rivalry between Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Serbia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. wr says:

    @MBunge: “Just because…you know…facts are important, I believe Trump was the one candidate in the Presidential race who was smart enough to want to keep us far away from the mess in Syria.”

    A beginner’s guide to feeling smug about voting for Trump: Chapter one — Always pretend that when Trump says something you like, he means it and will stick to it forever; when he says something that even you can’t rationalize, explain that Trump isn’t meant to be taken literally.

    A new bestseller by MBunge!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  30. Electroman says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: The Kuznetsov can’t catapult any planes, ever. It is not equipped with catapults – it’s a ski-jump carrier.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0