Russian ambassador’s killer ‘unlikely to have acted alone’

A procession for the late Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov. Picture: Erhan Ortac/Getty Images
A procession for the late Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov. Picture: Erhan Ortac/Getty Images
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The Turkish policeman who assassinated Russia’s ambassador was unlikely to have acted alone, according to a senior official in Ankara.

Russian investigators yesterday inspected the art gallery in the Turkish capital where ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot dead on Monday by Mevlut Mert Altintas.

The 22-year-old gunman, a member of Ankara’s riot police squad, had shouted slogans about the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo as he killed the envoy.

Russia’s entrance into Syria’s war helped turn the tide of the conflict and heralded a series of victories for government forces. Up until a few months ago, the Russian military was bombing rebel positions in Aleppo.

A senior government official described the killing as “fully professional, not a one-man action” and said the attack was well-planned.

Turkish police have detained seven people in connection with the gunman: his parents, sister, three other relatives and his roommate in Ankara, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

According to the news agency, Altintas took leave from work and on 14 December made a hotel reservation near the art exhibition centre. He arrived at the hotel on Monday. Police searched his hotel room, which was later sealed.

Mr Karlov’s body was flown home to Moscow yesterday afternoon after an emotional ceremony at Ankara Airport attended by Turkish government officials and diplomats.

His wife, Marina Karlova, wept as her husband’s flag-draped coffin was carried by a Turkish honour guard. She laid two red carnations on the coffin before it was loaded on to the aircraft.

“Ambassador Karlov has become the eternal symbol of Turkish-Russian friendship,” deputy prime minister Tugrul Turkes said at the ceremony.

Turkey and Russia, which have backed opposing sides in the Syrian war, vowed not to let the killing disrupt efforts to repair their ties.

“Strong relations will continue, no-one has the strength to destroy the relationship” between the two countries, Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim said during a speech in Istanbul for the opening of a tunnel highway under the Bosporus.

“We will continue to carry out every kind of effort to overcome the instability in the region.”

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he and Russian president Vladimir Putin, with whom he spoke by phone Monday night, were “in agreement that this was an open provocation”.

A joint investigation was being conducted into the death, he said. “Together with Mr Putin, we have an understanding that our co-operation, especially in Syria, will not be affected by this attack.”

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, speaking at a previously scheduled meeting on Syria in Moscow with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and their Iranian counterpart, said Turkey and Russia would work together to determine who was behind the “heinous terror attack. Turkey and Russia have shown the world what they can achieve when they co-operate,” Mr Cavusoglu said, referring to the ceasefire deal that paved the way for the evacuation of thousands of people from east Aleppo.

Both foreign ministers laid flowers in front of a photograph of the ambassador at the Russian foreign ministry mansion where talks were taking place. Mr Cavusoglu said a street where the Russian Embassy in Ankara is located would be renamed.

The Russian Consul General in Scotland, Andrey Pritsepov, paid tribute to Mr Karlov. He said: “His cause and the loving memory of him will live on in our hearts. Generations of future Russian diplomats will look up to him. We will not be broken by terror.”