The ambassador, Andrei Karlov, was several minutes into his speech at the embassy-sponsored exhibition in the capital, Ankara, when the gunman fired at least eight shots, according to an AP photographer in the audience.
The attacker also smashed several of the photos hung for the exhibition. There was panic as people ran for cover. NTV said three other people were wounded in the attack.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Karlov was shot "when an unidentified assailant opened chaotic gunfire during a public event in Ankara". She later confirmed he had died. She said Russia was in contact with Turkish officials about the incident.
The gunman has been identified as a Turkish policeman, Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek said.
"The attacker is a policeman," Mr. Gokcek said on his official Twitter account, after numerous reports on social media identifying the gunman.