2016 is gaining a reputation as a year of obituaries. Just today we lost actress Carrie Fisher and one of my favorite novelists, Richard Adams. I don’t think 2016 is necessarily cursed, but it is a coincidence that so many major figures have died.
Russia has had an unfortunate week, and just before the holidays no less.
In a brazen assassination, Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, was gunned down on December 19th at an art exhibition. The killer was a well groomed, well dressed Turkish national who was obviously skilled with a handgun. He shot down Karlov as stunned people looked on, took pictures, and recorded him. His motivation is apparently still in question, as are his potential ties to terrorist cells, but I think that this was a lone wolf attack. The rationale of the killer is pretty obvious given the speech he gave as Karlov lay dead where he called out Russia for their policy on Syria and their backing of Assad in the taking of Aleppo. There is great mistrust towards Russia and Assad in Turkey among refugees, radicals, and others. A great many people were alarmed by the assassination, with some drawing comparisons to the murder of Archduke Ferdinand and saying that war between NATO and Russia was imminent. The truth could not be farther; this tragedy will reinforce the trend of growing relations between Moscow and Ankara. Far from the nadir of Turkey shooting down a Russian plane, the two countries have become increasingly co-dependent since terror attacks and a coup attempt rocked Turkey. Erdogan used these opportunities to crack down on dissidents, and Putin used them to forge new ties with Turkey. Karlov strengthened the binds of Russia and Turkey in life…and in death.
A freak accident gutted the famous “Red Army Choir” as they were flying to Syria to perform at a military base. Their bombastic harmonies and passionate solos brought life to the Russian national anthem and just about every other song they did. Their plane went down off the coast of Sochi into the Black Sea. This was a freak accident that I learned about late Christmas Eve, and its a real tragedy with so much talent lost. In addition to the 64 members of the ensemble, 28 others travelling with them perished. Russian authorities have located the crash site and black box to confirm a mechanical failure.