The Russian ambassador to Ankara has been killed in a gun attack at an art gallery in the Turkish capital, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.
Reports said Andrei Karlov was attending the opening of an exhibit at a contemporary arts centre when he was attacked. The Russian Ambassador was several minutes into a speech at the exhibit when a man shouted “Allahu Akbar” and fired at least eight shots, according to an AP photographer who was present.
The attacker also smashed some of the photographs, AP reported. A source told RIA Karlov had died at the scene.
Turkey’s NTV reported that the gunman had been killed by police.
Turkish officials said the assassin entered the building claiming he was a police officer. Other bystanders alleged he shouted “Aleppo” when he shot Karlov, but the claims could not be immediately confirmed.
The attacker was said to have first shot Karlov in the back, before ordering people to leave the room. He then reportedly shot a second time as he lay on the floor. Turkish special forces have surrounded the gallery, believing the attacker to still be inside.
The Russian foreign ministry said it was in contact with Ankara over the events, RIA Novosti reported. President Vladimir Putin called an urgent meeting with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and the heads of the security services.
The Russian ambassador had been part of discussions between Turkey that led to an evacuation of east Aleppo getting underway late last week. He had also been a central conduit to the Turkish government’s rapproachment with Moscow in April.
The incident comes a day before the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, is due in Moscow for talks with Russian and Iranian counterparts.
Russia and Turkey have recently gone some way to mending ties, following a long freeze in relations after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane in November 2015.
Fatih Öke, the press attache of Turkey’s embassy in Washington DC, wrote on Twitter: “The bullet to Ambassador Karlov is not only aims him. It aims also Turkish Russian relation. We are praying for his good health and peace.”
Karlov is a career diplomat who had previously served as ambassador to North Korea.
This is a breaking news story. More details to follow