Columns

Russian Ambassador Assassinated at Ankara Art Exhibition

The gunman after shooting Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov at a photo gallery in Ankara on Dec. 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

The Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated while giving a speech at an Ankara art gallery today.

Photos quickly disseminated over social media showed a young man in a suit holding a gun over the wounded ambassador, Andrei Karlov.

Karlov later died from his injuries, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry. Daily Sabah, a pro-Erdoğan publication, said the ambassador was shot “at least eight times” and several others were wounded.

Reports differed as to what the gunman said, from “we die in Aleppo, you die here” to “we’ll make you pay for Aleppo,” referring to Russian bombardment of the besieged Syrian city.

Some reports said the gunman, who was shot by police, was a police officer himself. Footage showed the gunman standing in an empty, ostensibly secure space behind the ambassador and a wall of paintings when shots were fired.

Still photos also show the gunman before the attack, standing behind the ambassador like a security detail.

Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov speaks at a gallery in Ankara on Dec. 19, 2016. His assassin is on the left. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov speaks at a gallery in Ankara on Dec. 19, 2016. His assassin is on the left. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Hürriyet reporter Haşim Kılıç was covering the art exhibition, and said the gunman first fired into the air, making attendees scatter before he took aim at the ambassador.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was already scheduled to head to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with Russia and Iran about Syria.

The Kremlin said presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Vladimir Putin spoke by phone Saturday and “exchanged opinions on Syria, focusing on the situation in Aleppo and in particular efforts to complete the evacuation of civilians and the fighters who are willing to join the ceasefire.”

“They expressed satisfaction with close Russian-Turkish coordination in the interests of settling the internal Syrian conflict and agreed to continue intensive contact towards this end,” the statement added.

The two presidents had gotten past tensions arising out of last year’s downing of a Russian Su-24 jet that reportedly breached the border by Turkish F-16s. Two Russian pilots died in the shoot-down.

State Department press secretary John Kirby tweeted of today’s attack: “We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.”

The art gallery where the assassination unfolded is close to the U.S. Embassy. The area was placed on lockdown afterward and the State Department issued a caution to U.S. citizens to avoid the compound.

This story was updated at 1 p.m. EST