In a shocking and possibly history-altering incident, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey was brazenly assassinated yesterday as TV cameras rolled and shocked bystanders looked on.
Some are already warning that World War I, which led to the deaths of tens of millions of people, began with the similarly public assassination of an official few had ever heard of before.
The New York Times reports on yesterday’s events:
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 the leaders of Turkey and Russia called a provocative terrorist attack.
The gunman, described by Turkish officials as a 22-year-old off-duty police officer, also wounded at least three others in the assault on the envoy, Andrey G. Karlov, which was captured on video. Turkish officials said the assailant was killed by other officers in a shootout.
At least publicly, leaders of both Russia and Turkey are downplaying initial fears that the incident would draw both countries into armed conflict:
The longer-term implications for the Russia-Turkey relationship, which had been warming recently after plunging a year ago, were not immediately clear. But some analysts played down the notion that the assassination would lead to a new rupture, saying it could conversely bring the countries closer together in a shared fight against terrorism.
President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Russian television that Mr. Karlov had been “despicably killed” to sabotage ties with Turkey. Mr. Putin spoke with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, by phone, and the two leaders agreed to cooperate in investigating the killing, and in combating terrorism broadly.
A second slaying of a Russian diplomat came right on the heels of this first one, this one at home in Moscow. While it was not caught on media cameras in public, the fact that two diplomatic deaths occurred within 24 hours is sure to have the Kremlin concerned. From Ukraine Today:
Russian media reported the death of one more diplomat, RFE/RL reports. According to the statement, former high ranking Russian diplomat was found shot dead in his apartment in Moscow. Police reported on Dec. 20 that the body of a man with traces of the use of firearms found in the apartment at Balaklava Avenue on Monday night.
It is too early to say how, if at all, this murder will change Russia’s anti-ISIS activities in Syria.