The body of the Russian ambassador assassinated by a Turkish policeman in Ankara has been flown home.
Andrei Karlov was shot by Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, nine times as he gave a speech on Monday, apparently in protest at Russia’s involvement in Aleppo.
On Tuesday afternoon, Karlov’s coffin was carried across Esenboga airport’s tarmac, draped in a Russian flag.
He was accompanied to a waiting plane, sent by Moscow, by an honour guard of six Turkish soldiers.
‘An eternal symbol of friendship’
A short ceremony, attended by Ankara’s top diplomats and Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Tugrul Turkes, took place before Karlov left the country for the last time.
In highly unusual scenes for a Muslim country, a Russian Orthodox priest said prayers and swung incense over the coffin, while a Turkish soldier stood holding a picture of the murdered diplomat and Karlov’s widow Marina wept.
Mrs Karlova was present when Altintas opened fire on her husband, who took up his posting in Ankara in 2013.
The plane carrying his body later touched down in Moscow.
It was not clear if the gunman, an Ankara riot police member who was later shot dead in a gun fight with Turkish officers, had links to any militant group.
However, Russia and Turkey agreed quickly the assassination was an act of “provocation” with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying it was “undoubtedly… aimed at disrupting the normalisation” of bilateral ties and the “peace process in Syria”.
They have vowed to work together to find out who is behind the murder of Karlov. Russian investigators arrived in Turkey to help on Tuesday.
Mr Turkes also paid his respects to Karlov at Tuesday’s ceremony, describing him as the man who “has become the eternal symbol of Turkish-Russian friendship”.
In his time in Ankara, the veteran diplomat, 62, who had served as Soviet ambassador to North Korea for much of the 1980s, had to grapple with a major crisis when a Turkish plane shot down a Russian jet close to the Syrian border.
Demanding a Turkish apology, Moscow imposed damaging sanctions – notably a freeze on charter flights by Russian tourists – and the two countries only recently mended ties.
Meanwhile, a senior Turkish government official told the Associated Press that the killing was “fully professional, not a one-man action” and that the attack was well-planned.
Police have arrested six people over the killing, including Altintas’s mother, father, sister and three other relatives, as well as his roommate.