While a red rose held in the hand traditionally is a symbol of socialism or social democracy, it means something a little bit different for social democratic Russian president Vladimir Putin.
This past week, the typically austere and stoic Putin was seen clutching a bouquet of red roses looking completely crestfallen at the funeral of slain Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov.
On December 19, Karlov was assassinated publicly at an art exhibition in Ankara, Turkey. He was giving a speech before cameras when an off-duty police officer crept through security and shot him from behind. After he killed Karlov, the gunman was recorded shouting jihadist and anti-Russian phrases.
“Don’t forget Syria! Don’t forget Aleppo! …Until our towns are safe, you won’t enjoy security either. Everyone who is involved in this will pay a price. Only death can take me from here.”
The gunman, 22-year-old Melvut Altintas, who was an officer in Turkey’s police special forces, was killed at the scene. An investigation into the murder showed that Altintas was angered by Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict and its recognition of Syria as a state under president Bashar al-Assad.
This murder has shocked the world not only because Karlov was publicly killed in cold blood, but because it defied the security protocols Russia is internationally known for. In fact, Russia has not lost a political official on foreign soil since 1920.
Karlov was laid to rest on December 22 in a traditional Russian Orthodox ceremony at the Foreign Ministry Building in Moscow. The slain envoy’s body was laid out in an open casket, with a prayer cloth tied around his bullet wound, and his funeral service was led by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill.
Putin, who was longtime friends with Karlov, posthumously awarded him the highest Russian military honor, Hero of Russia.