Russia: Syria's ancient Palmyra cleared of mines

2016-04-21 20:57
Syrian pro-government forces rest on the outskirts of Palmyra during a military operation to retake the ancient city from ISIS. (Maher Al Mounes, AFP)

Syrian pro-government forces rest on the outskirts of Palmyra during a military operation to retake the ancient city from ISIS. (Maher Al Mounes, AFP)

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Moscow - Russia's military on Thursday said it had completely de-mined the Unesco world heritage site of Palmyra in Syria after it was recaptured by government forces from ISIS fighters last month.

"As of today the tasks to de-mine the ancient architectural part of Palmyra have been completed in their entirety," Yury Stavitsky, the commander of Russia's military engineers, told President Vladimir Putin in a televised video link-up from Syria.

Stavitsky said that Russian sappers had discovered and defused 2 991 explosive devices at the 234ha site and along 23km of road leading to it.

"Now the units of engineers have moved on to de-mining the residential area of the town of Palmyra and the airport," Stavitsky reported.

"367 buildings have been checked, 40ha of territory and 9.5km of roads. 1 432 explosive devices have been destroyed."

About 560ha in the modern town remain to be de-mined, he added.

"Pass on my gratitude to all the personnel: officers, rank-and-file, those providing security. Thank you very much. I wish you success," Putin said in the broadcast.

Palmyra was retaken from ISIS by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad - backed up by Russian firepower - on March 27.

The jihadists had blown up Unesco-listed temples and looted ancient relics at the site - known as the "Pearl of the Desert" - after overrunning it in May 2015.

The recapture of Palmyra and its world famous antiquities has been one of the biggest propaganda coups for Moscow since it launched a bombing campaign to support long-time ally Assad in September, a move that sparked condemnation in the West.

The de-mining mission was personally ordered by Putin and the Kremlin has been keen to publicise it.

Read more on:    unesco  |  russia  |  syria

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