Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to step up the country's efforts against terrorism, vowing a strong response to the assassination of his ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov. He said the fatal attack was meant to be a "provocation" aimed at sabotaging the improving Russia-Turkey ties.

Shortly after the high-profile murder, the Russian leader said: "This murder is clearly a provocation aimed at undermining the improvement and normalisation of Russian-Turkish relations, as well as undermining the peace process in Syria promoted by Russia, Turkey, Iran and other countries interested in settling the conflict in Syria.

The Russian president added that the "only response" to the attack that Moscow "should offer" is "stepping up the fight against terrorism," "The killers will feel it," he said.

At an art exhibition in Ankara, Karlov, 62, was shot dead by a black-suited gunman who was reportedly shouting "Aleppo" and "revenge". Images of the suspected killer holding a handgun and the Russian diplomat's body lying on the floor, have surfaced following the incident. The suspect has been identified as 22-year-old riot police officer, Mevlut Meet Altintas.

Hailing his envoy, Putin said: "He was killed while performing his duties. We have to know who organised this killing and gave orders to the assassin."

A team of Russian investigators is travelling to Ankara and will arrive later in the day (20 December) in order to take part in the probe, which will be jointly carried by Turkish and Russian authorities. Moscow's Investigative Committee has already launched a probe into the matter.

Putin's Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has also released a similar statement, saying the episode is meant to deliberately wreck the normalising relations between the two countries. "I believe this is an attack on Turkey, the Turkish state and the Turkish people, and also a clear provocation to Turkish-Russian relations. I am sure our Russian friends also see this fact." Both the leaders have held a phone call subsequent to the killing. Security has been heightened up in Russian diplomatic missions abroad.

Andrey Karlov
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov are pictured disembarking from the Presidential aircraft at Ataturk airport in Istanbul on 10 October 2016 Osman Orsal/Reuters