Russia’s embassy in Ankara expressed fury today over the awarding of the prestigious World Press Photo Award for an image of an off-duty Turkish policeman assassinating the Russian envoy to Turkey last year. The embassy, whose ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot dead in the December 19 killing, said the decision by the jury was “demoralising” and showed a “complete degradation of ethics and moral values”.
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“Propaganda of the horror of terror is unacceptable,” it said in a statement on its official Facebook page.
The famous image was taken by Burhan Ozbilici, a photographer for the Associated Press, who stood his ground as 22-year-old policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas killed Karlov at the opening of an Ankara exhibition on December 19.
Jurors commended the courage of the photographer and symbolic resonance of the picture but the choice split the jury, with its president Stuart Franklin opposing the choice.
“Placing the photograph on this high pedestal is an invitation to those contemplating such staged spectaculars,” he wrote in the British daily The Guardian.
The head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian senate Konstantin Kosachev said the choice was “on the edge of morality” and asked “how many more terrorists could be inspired by this photo”, RIA Novosti reported.
Altintas was killed at the scene by Turkish security forces and the authorities said he was part of the group of the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara blames for the failed July 15 failed coup.
Russia, which sent an investigation team to Ankara after the killing, has yet to back this conclusion. The street in Ankara where the embassy is located has since been named after Karlov.