Russia: Too Early to Reach Conclusions About Ambassador’s Killer

Russia said Wednesday it is too early to draw conclusions about the shooter responsible for the assassination of the country’s ambassador to Turkey.

An off-duty police officer shot Ambassador Andrei Karlov on Monday in Ankara. A witness told VOA the shooter shouted: “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria! As long as our lands aren’t safe, you will not be safe!”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a phone call that Turkey believes the killer is linked to Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the United States and has also been blamed for July’s failed coup in Turkey.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday there should be no rush to conclusions before a joint investigation of the assassination is complete.

The United States has rejected what it called “absolutely ridiculous” suggestions that it was involved in or supported the assassination because of Gulen’s presence in the U.S.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that Secretary Kerry raised concerns about “some of the rhetoric coming out of Turkey” in his call with Cavusoglu.

“We need to let the investigators do their job and we need to… let the facts and the evidence take them where it is before we jump to conclusions,” Kirby told reporters. “But any notion that the United States was in any way supportive of this or behind this or even indirectly involved is absolutely ridiculous.”

Karlov’s body arrived in Moscow on Tuesday, accompanied by his widow.

Cavusoglu said on Twitter the street outside the Russian Embassy in Ankara will be named after Karlov. The Turkish foreign minister was in Moscow Tuesday for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, and the two diplomats laid flowers next to portrait of Karlov.

“Turkish people are mourning this loss as much as Russia and the people of Russia,” Cavusoglu said.

Cavusoglu, Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met to discuss the Syrian crises, and according to Lavrov, they agreed to facilitate a deal between the Syrian government and the opposition.

Both Russian and Turkish leaders have said the assassination will not divide them. Analysts say they do not see the killing driving a wedge in Russia-Turkey relations.

“For a while now Turkey and Russia had agreed on many issues in northern Syria, including evacuation of civilians from eastern Aleppo, and this convergence could be undermined by the assassination attempt but I think that will not happen,” TWI Turkish Research Program Director Soner Cagaptay told VOA Turkish. “At this stage for Russia to act aggressively on this assassination issue would mean that Russia would lose what it has, so I think…Turkey will respond by running a thorough investigation of the assassination.”

“Russian has been given Turkey the benefit of the doubt because of the broader interests developing the region regarding Syria and Iraq,” said political columnist Semih Idiz of Al Monitor website. “As you see now Russia has brought Turkey to its side. It’s trying to capitalize on the deepening division between Turkey and the West, and it sees an advantage in this and it would not want to endanger at this moment in time.”

Captured on video

Ambassador Karlov was making a speech at the opening of an art exhibition as the well-dressed gunman stood on the side of the stage, leading many in the audience to assume he was a bodyguard. The entire scene was captured on video.

Three other people were wounded before security officers shot the gunman dead. Ambassador Karlov died at a hospital. He had been Russia’s ambassador to Turkey since 2013.

Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek identified the assassin as a 22-year-old police officer, Mevlut Mert Altintas.

Anadolu said six people have been detained in connection with the investigation, including the roommate, parents and other relatives of Altintas.