Ambassador Andrey Karlov speaking at the Ankara gallery on Monday. The suited man on the left was later filmed firing shots.
Moscow’s ambassador to Turkey was shot dead by a gunman while he was visiting an art gallery in the capital Ankara on Monday, with video showing the shooter screaming the assassination was revenge for Russia’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.
Ambassador Andrey Karlov was speaking at the photo exhibition when a man in a suit behind him opened fire multiple times.
Numerous reports indicated the gunman, who has not been officially identified, had worked as a Turkish police officer.
Andrey Karlov, right, speaking at the art exhibition on Monday.
Maria Zakharova, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, later told reporters the ambassador had died.
“We consider this a terrorist act,” Zakharova said. “The killers will be punished.”
Graphic pictures from photographers at the event showed a man holding a gun and gesturing in the air, as another man who appeared to be Karlov lay on the ground
Video circulating on social media appeared to show the ambassador falling to the ground as the same suited man stands behind him, brandishing a gun.
Additional video showed the same armed man screaming loudly in Turkish.
“Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” the man can be heard saying in the video. “Until they are safe, you will not taste safety! Go back, go back, only death will take me from here. All those who have taken part in this cruelty will pay one by one!”
Russia recently helped the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad drive out rebels from Aleppo in a bloody battle that has created a humanitarian crisis.
People in the gallery react after the ambassador was shot.
Photojournalist Haşim Kılıç, who attended the event, told the Hurriyet newspaper the exhibition had been organized by the Russian embassy in Turkey.
“When it was time for the ambassador to talk, someone we previously thought was a guard, who was in a black suit, was standing behind him. Suddenly he started shooting in the air. Then he shot the ambassador,” he said.
“The attacker said some things about Aleppo. Then he told people to go outside. As people were leaving, he shot at the ambassador’s body a couple of more times.
“I think one of the shots hit someone else in their foot. The security at the Modern Arts Center said that he entered showing a police ID.
“There were about 100 people inside and they all left. As people were fleeing, he shot at the ambassador again,” he said.
An Associated Press photographer at the event told the news agency the gunman shouted “Allahu Akbar” and fired at least eight shots.
Karlov, a career diplomat born in Moscow, served as Russia’s ambassador to North Korea before becoming Russia’s top emmisary to Turkey in 2013.
The Modern Arts Center in Ankara, where the shooting took place, is a municipal building run by the government.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby said the Obama administration was monitoring the situation.
“We condemn this act of violence, whatever its source. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families,” Kirby said on Twitter.
US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who has been critical of Russia’s involvement in Syria, also offered her condolences for the “savage attack.”
A meeting on the Syrian crisis between the Russian, Turkish, and Iranian foreign ministers was scheduled to take place on Dec. 20. It is not clear if the meeting will now still go ahead.
Mitch Prothero and Borzou Daragahi contributed to this report.