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Russia sends team to investigate ambassador’s murder in Turkey

Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, pauses during a speech at a photo exhibition in Ankara on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016, moments before a gunman opened fire on him. (Burhan Ozbilici / Associated Press)
Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, pauses during a speech at a photo exhibition in Ankara on Monday, Dec. 19, 2016, moments before a gunman opened fire on him. (Burhan Ozbilici / Associated Press)
By Peter Spinella Tribune News Service

MOSCOW – Russia dispatched a team of investigators on Tuesday to investigate the killing of the ambassador in Ankara, Turkey, where officials have announced plans to name a street after the murdered diplomat.

About 20 experts from Russia’s security services and Foreign Ministry are to work with Turkish counterparts as part of a probe into the killing of Ambassador Andrei Karlov at an art gallery on Monday evening, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The assassin, identified as a Turkish law enforcement officer, shouted Islamist slogans and denounced Russia’s military support for the Syrian government in that country’s bloody civil war.

The Turkish government has blamed the movement of exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen for the ambassador’s assassination, state-run Anadolu news agency reported Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry, that U.S.-based Gulen was behind the killing, Anadolu reported, citing diplomatic sources.

Turkey and Russia both know that Gulen, whom Ankara also blames for a failed coup d’etat in the summer, was behind the shooting, Cavusoglu said.

Following a memorial ceremony attended by Turkish government officials and the wife of Karlov at Ankara airport, the body of the ambassador was being returned to Russia.

Both countries have denounced the attack as a provocation intended to disrupt a rapprochement in bilateral relations.

“We will never allow our relations with Russia to be destroyed or damaged,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Istanbul.

Turkey and Russia support opposing sides in Syria and have been attempting to rebuild their relations in recent months after Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane on the Turkish-Syrian border last year.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Cavusoglu met in Moscow on Tuesday for a series of talks to focus on the fight against terrorism, particularly in war-torn Syria and Iraq.

The talks, which included Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, resulted in several agreements on anti-terrorism measures and the pursuit of peace in Syria, Russian state media reported.

Russia, Turkey and Iran have expressed hope that they can act as mediators between Syria’s government and opposition forces to bring peace to the country.

Cavusoglu said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had accepted a recommendation from Russian President Vladimir Putin to establish the joint investigation into the attack.

Turkish officials plan to rename the Russian embassy’s street in Ankara in honor of the ambassador. “His name will live on in Ankara and in our hearts,” Cavusoglu said.

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