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Russia pays last respects to slain ambassador

Dozens of officials have bid farewell to Andrei Karlov, including President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov. Russia and Turkey have labeled the killing of the ambassador a failed attempt to derail rapprochement.

Russia mourned the death of slain ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov during a packed memorial in Moscow on Thursday, three days after the diplomat was gunned down in Turkey by an off-duty policeman.

Dozens of top-level officials attended the ceremony, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

A televised ceremony was held in the Foreign Ministry headquarters before moving on to Moscow's prestigious gold-domed Cathedral of Christ the Savior. There, the religious funeral service was presided over by the Russian Orthodox Church's highest-ranking clergyman, Patriarch Kirill.

Speaking at the ceremony, Lavrov said: "We are saying goodbye to our friend Andrei Karlov who became a victim of a malicious, vile terrorist attack while in the line of duty. We will never forget Andrei."

Russland Trauerakt für den getöteten Diplomaten Andrej Karlow in Moskau (Reuters/M. Shemetov)

Karlov's funeral has held in Moscow's prestigious gold-domed Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

While Putin did not make a statement during the ceremony, he paid his respects by laying roses at the foot of the flower-decked coffin and consoling the ambassador's widow, Marina.

A day earlier, the Russian president posthumously bestowed Karlov with the country's highest military medal, the Hero of Russia award.

A Soviet-trained diplomat, Karlov worked in North and South Korea during the 1990s and 2000s. He was sent to Turkey in 2013.

In an act captured on video, Karlov was killed on Monday after being shot nine times in the back at a photography exhibit in Ankara. He fell to the floor and later died in hospital. He was 62 years old.

The assailant, a 22-year-old policeman named Mevlut Mert Altintas, shouted "Allahu Akbar" (Arabic for God is great) and "don't forget Aleppo" after shooting Karlov. He was killed by guards in a subsequent shootout.

Türkei Anschlag auf russischen Botschafter (picture alliance/dpa/O. Ozbilici)

Altintas shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) and "Don't forget Aleppo" as he shot and killed Karlov.

Authorities investigate killer's motive

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been quick to accuse the perpetrator of having links to exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan accused Gulen of orchestrating the botched July coup bid to overthrow the government.

Pro-government press reported that police discovered pro-Gulen literature belonging to Altintas at his home.

Turkish prosecutors on Thursday released six relatives of Altintas who had been detained for questing as part of the probe. Since Monday's attack, 13 people have been arrested with police saying they are looking for another 120.

Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup attempt or Monday's assassination.

The shooting came just as Turkey and Russia recently improved relations and agreed to cooperate more closely over Syria. This rapprochement follows a turbulent period. The countries back different sides in the ongoing Syria war, with Turkey supporting the rebel forces and Russia backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Relations were further strained after Turkey shot down a Russian combat aircraft in 2015 by the Turkish-Syrian border in what it claimed was an accident.

Both countries have labeled the assassination as a failed attempt to derail Moscow and Ankara's rapprochement, although Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned against "rushing to conclusions" concerning Gulen before the investigation is complete.

Russia has sent a team of investigators to help local authorities with the investigation.

Watch video 00:39

Body of slain ambassador returned to Moscow

dm/sms (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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