The Russian and Turkish presidents have agreed the assassination of Russia's ambassador to Turkey will not harm ties between the two countries but sources say that the killing was not the work of a single individual.
The assailant who killed Russia's ambassador to Ankara was unlikely to have acted alone, a senior Turkish government official said Tuesday, as investigators from both countries hunted for clues as to who might have been behind the killing.
Russian investigators arrived in the Turkish capital of Ankara on Tuesday morning. The senior government official described the killing as "fully professional, not a one-man action" and said the attack was well-planned. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release details to the press.
Turkish authorities have not publicly released any information on the investigation or on a possible motive for the policeman.
"We share the same understanding with Mr. Putin that our expanding areas of cooperation with Russia, particularly on Syria, will not be hampered by this attack," Turkish President Reccep Erdogan said in Istanbul after the two leaders spoke by phone late Monday, the French Press Agency reported.
The two countries' foreign ministers laid flowers Tuesday at a portrait of Ambassador Andrei Karlov in Moscow, who was shot and killed by an off-duty policeman Monday in an apparent protest against Russia's deadly involvement in Syria.
Karlov was making a speech at the opening of an art exhibition when the gunman shot Karlov in the back. "Don't forget Aleppo! Don't forget Syria!" the gunman shouted in Turkish. "You will not taste safety unless our towns are safe. Only death can get me out of here! Whoever has a share in this tyranny [in Syria] will pay for it one by one.''
Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek identified the assassin as 22-year-old police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas, who was fatally shot by authorities.
The Turkish newspaper, the Hurriyet Daily News reported that Altıntaş, was warned by security personnel when he refused to go through the X-ray device for a check but was later allowed in as he showed his police ID.
Altıntaş also took a leave of absence on Dec. 19 and booked a hotel in order to plan the attack.
Altıntaş stayed at a hotel close to the scene of the incident, according to initial investigations. Police sealed his hotel room, number 214, after the attack, Anadolu Agency reported.
As the time approached before Karlov’s speech at the opening of the photography exhibition, Altıntaş shaved and dressed before leaving the hotel to walk to the exhibition.
Altıntaş took 11 shots, nine of them targeting the envoy, according to security footage obtained from the scene. Nine bullets hit Karlov’s body, although officials believe two bullets might have gone through his body.
Clashes erupted when security forces called on him to surrender.
“Surrender, drop your weapon and we will get you out of here,” the police shouted, which was rejected by the assailant.
“I won’t leave this place alive and I haven’t arrived here to get out alive,” he replied.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed Andrei Karlov had died of his wounds.
"Today in Ankara as a result of an attack the Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov received wounds that he died from," Zakharova said on Monday. "We qualify what happened as a terrorist act.
The shooting took place at the Cagdas Sanatlar Merkezi, an exhibition hall in a section of Ankara that's home to most foreign embassies.
Karlov was speaking at a Russian embassy-sponsored photo exhibition titled "Russia as Seen by Turks" when he was shot.
The AP said one of its photographers was at the scene and reported a man wearing a suit and tie shouted "Allahu Akbar'' and fired at least eight shots.
A witness told VOA that attendees passed through a metal detector to get into the exhibit, but it didn't appear there was additional security due to the Russian ambassador's presence.
"[We] threw ourselves to the ground with the gunshot sounds," Bahar Bakir, a diplomacy reporter to Haberturk TV, told VOA's Turkish service. "I saw that the gun was aimed at the ceiling and I saw the ambassador on the ground unfortunately."
Bakir said she heard 20-30 shots as she and others ran from the scene of the shooting.
Karlov, 62, served as Russia's envoy to Pyongyang in 2001-2006, and later headed the Foreign Ministry's consular department. He became Russia's ambassador to Turkey in 2013.
Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, "Turkish people are mourning this loss as much as Russia and the people of Russia."
Cavusoglu was in Moscow along with the foreign minister of Iran for what was expected to be a major meeting to discuss the Syrian crisis.
The three foreign ministers have agreed to facilitate a deal between the Syrian government and the opposition, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after their meeting on Tuesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin condemned the killing as an act of terrorism.
"There is no doubt that the committed crime is a provocation aimed at ruining Russian-Turkish relations and the peace process in Syria, which is moving forward with the help of Russia, Turkey and Iran," Putin said Monday. "The answer is to strengthen the counter-terrorism efforts and the criminals will feel that soon."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also called the killing a "provocation" and said "Turkey and Russia have the will not to be deceived."
State Department spokesman John Kirby said "We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source. Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.”
In a statement, White House National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price also condemned the assassination and said the U.S., stands "united with Russia and Turkey in our determination to confront terrorism in all of its forms.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. is ready to assist in the investigation of "this despicable act" and called it "an assault on the right of all diplomats to safely and securely advance and represent their nations around the world."
"There can be no justification for an attack on a diplomat or an ambassador." U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
German Interior Minister Thomas De Maiziere said "irrespective of the differences we have with Turkey on other issues, we are in solidarity with Turkey in the common fight against terrorism."
By: Walter Metuth