Ankara, Dec 20: Russian investigators arrived in Turkey today to probe the assassination of Moscow's ambassador at an Ankara art show, as both sides pledged the murder would not damage improving relations. Veteran diplomat Andrei Karlov was shot nine times in the back by off-duty Turkish policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas at the art gallery opening of a show of Russian photography on Monday.
The brazen killing stunned Ankara and Moscow, which have rowed repeatedly over the Syria conflict but in recent weeks have begun cooperating closely on the evacuations from war-wrecked Aleppo. An unprecedented three-way meeting on Syria between the foreign ministers of Turkey, Russia and Iran went ahead in Moscow Tuesday despite the assassination, with the diplomats backing a widening of a truce.
Six people have been detained over the Karlov assassination, including the sister, mother, father and uncle of the 22-year-old Altintas, Turkish media said. Adding to the jitters, with Turkey already on high alert after a string of deadly attacks, an individual also fired outside the US embassy in Ankara overnight. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his secret services to boost security at home and abroad, and to step up cooperation with foreign intelligence services. "I ask you through channels of partnership to strengthen your work with the intelligence agencies of other states", he was quoted as saying by Russian news wires. Meanwhile, a Russian investigative team visited the scene of the attack at the Contemporary Arts Centre in central Ankara as part of a joint probe with Turkey.
Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul that he and Putin agreed in a phone call after the murder that "our expanding areas of cooperation with Russia, particularly on Syria, will not be hampered by this attack". Dramatic footage of yesterday's assassination showed Karlov stumble and crash to the ground on his back as Altintas brandished his automatic pistol at terrified onlookers who cowered behind cocktail tables.
The lone gunman shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is greatest") and "Don't forget Aleppo", vowing that those responsible for events in Syria would be held accountable. Altintas did not go through the metal detector security check when he entered the exhibition and was warned by a security officer, according to the Cankaya municipality where the exhibition centre is located.