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Published On: Mon, Mar 28th, 2016

Russia Sends Army Engineers and Robots to Syria to Clear Landmines in Palmyra

nsnbc : The Russian General Staff, on Monday, announced that it would deploy personnel and robots to Syria to help clearing landmines from the ancient World Heritage site in Palmyra, the city, the airport and surrounding areas. The city has been recaptured from ISIL on Sunday.

Drone image of the ancient Ruins in Palmyra - or what is left of them after ISIL's attempt to eradicate all non or pre-Islamic culture.

Drone image of the ancient Ruins in Palmyra – or what is left of them after ISIL’s attempt to eradicate all non or pre-Islamic culture.

Russian State media quote the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, General Valery Gerasimov, as saying that Russia will send experts from its engineering forces along with special robots to participate in the demining of the ancient city of Palmyra.

General Gerasimov added that recapturing Palmyra has a strategic importance in combating terrorism and that Russian airstrikes destroyed positions and depots of terrorists and cut off routes for oil smuggling which was supporting the activities of terrorists.

The Russian Chief of Staff stressed that Russia’s airstrikes in the past months helped to radically change the situation that resulted from the spread of terrorism since positions of terrorists were destroyed along with their depots and supply routes.

Ironically, the European Union has still not revised its decision from April 22, 2013, to list its ban on the import of Syrian oil from “rebel-held territories”.

Palmyra castle, deliberately targeted by ISIL.

Palmyra castle, deliberately targeted by ISIL.

Palmyra is of significant strategic importance for the Syrian  military. The region between Palmyra and the “ISIL capital” Raqqa consists largely of open desert land, dotted by individual hills. The theater gives the advantage to the Syrian Army, for several reasons. The Syrian Arab Army has superior artillery power, especially after Syria received new Russian artillery pieces.

The Syrian and Russian Air Forces can operate more freely in open land where operations are not being complicated by the time-consuming task to distinguish between civilian and military targets, such as in urban environments. All of the above is also valid about the territory between Palmyra and the oil-rich and also strategically important city and province of Deir Ez-Zor. The lion-share of the stolen Syrian oil that fuels ISIL’s economy comes from Deir Ez-Zor.

Units of the Syrian Arab Army, in cooperation with popular defense groups, had restored security and stability to Palmyra, both the modern part of it and the ancient city which is listed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage, and established full control over Palmyra Airport.  The UNESCO team is expected to visit the site in April. On Friday, as the SAA was advancing on Palmyra, the UNESCO Director-General Irina Borkova said:

Syrian Arab Army soldiers after wresting Palmyra from ISIL.

Syrian Arab Army soldiers after wresting Palmyra from ISIL.

“I welcome the liberation of the Palmyra archeological site, martyr city inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which carries the memory of the Syrian people, and the values of cultural diversity, tolerance and openness that have made this region a cradle of civilization… For one year, Palmyra has been a symbol of the cultural cleansing plaguing the Middle East. The dynamiting and pillage of its treasures, to break an entire society, sparked a unanimous indignation and strengthened the unprecedented mobilization in favor of the values ​​that unite all humanity. The destruction of temples of Baal Shamin and Bel, the funeral towers and the Triumphal Arch are an immense loss for the Syrian people and the world. As soon as security conditions allow, UNESCO is ready to go to Palmyra with those responsible for Syrian antiquities on a mission to evaluate damage and protect the priceless heritage of the city of Palmyra, crossroad of cultures since the dawn of humanity. The deliberate destruction of heritage is a war crime, and UNESCO will do everything in its power to document the damage so that these crimes do not go unpunished. I wish to remind all parties present of the absolute necessity to preserve this unique heritage as an essential condition for peace and the future of the region.”

The participation of members of Russia’s engineer corps in clearing the ancient UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city and the airport for landmines, improvised explosive devices and other hazards helps making an inspection of the ancient Ruins by UNESCO and by Syrian experts possible at an earlier time and enables engineers from the Syrian Arab Army to focus more on areas where combat operations are ongoing.

CH/L – nsnbc 28.03.2013

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