The Russian Ambassador to Turkey since 2013, Andrei Karlov, age 62, was assassinated in Ankara, in what Russian President Vladimir Putin has deemed an act of terrorism. The assassination was carried out by Mevlut Mert Altıntas, a twenty-two-year-old, off-duty Turkish Police Officer in apparent retaliation against Russia for the country's continued involvement in Aleppo Syria.
Video footage shows the assassin in the moments before the shooting calmly standing behind the Ambassador who was several minutes into his speech at the opening of an art exhibition. Speaking calmly, seemingly unaware of the imminent danger he was in until Altıntas shot him in the back at point-blank range.
Many are asking, how this could have happened, especially in light of Turkey's crackdown and futile attempts to enforce stricter gun laws since last July's failed coup? Altıntas' weapon passed through the art gallery's stringent security system and metal detectors with ease. Mostly due to his position with the very same security force that was responsible last night for providing protection for Ambassador Karlov.
The assassin was shouting in Turkish and what sounded to be Arabic, "Allahu Akbar! Don't Forget Syria; We die in Aleppo! You die here!" Then he turned his gun and fired off more rounds as he continued to rant. Much of which was unintelligible, however, his last remark before being shot and killed condemned Russia's involvement and continued presence in Syria.
Today's assassination could not have come at a worse time for Turkey and the country's President Erdogan. Tensions have been strained between Turkey and Russia last year's downing of a Russian Sukhoi Su-24 also referred to as a Su-24 by a Turkish combat airplane, close to the disputed Turkish-Syrian border.
However, this past year saw the tensions slowly beginning to ease.
Even though relations between the two countries are improving, including the lifting of travel restrictions. Turkey knows Russia will have a decisive and clear-cut response to today's events and it will be at Putin choosing. Already as a direct result of Ambassador Karlov's assassination, Russia's Defense Minister postponed his trip for tomorrow's Trilateral Summit on Syria.