Russia to send robots, engineers to Syria to help demine Palmyra
The support given by the Russians will include engineers and robots, which will be used to defuse numerous bombs and booby traps, which were left by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants after they were defeated.
These experts from the International Mine Action Centre of the Russian Armed Forces will be sent to Syria at the request of the Syrian government. They are to arrive at the Khmeimim airbase in the very near future, according to Sergey Kuralenko, head of the Russian center for reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria.
The announcement was made by the head of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who also mentioned that following a decision taken by President Vladimir Putin, Russian forces will be involved in the removal of mines in the area.
“Yesterday, thanks to the support of the Russian Air Force and our special operations, Palmyra, a key cultural center, was freed from terrorists. The liberation of this city has a strategic importance in the fight against terrorism in Syria,” Gerasimov stated.
The Russian Air Force was not used to attack terrorists in areas where ancient monuments of architecture are situated, Kuralenko told reporters on Monday.
“Government troops supported by Russia’s Air and Space forces and national militia units fighting ISIS [Islamic State, formerly ISIL/ISIS] terrorists have liberated the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. The operation of liquidating the remaining groups of militants carries on in its southern suburbs. Russian Aviation has not been used in the operation. To avoid damaging the historic monuments of Palmyra and civilian facilities, air operations have been adjusted and coordinated by special operations forces," he said.
According to Kuralenko, Russian military advisers who assisted in planning the operation for liberating Palmyra have evaluated the current state of the old town sites. They state many of the precious architectural structures have been largely destroyed. They also report that during their retreat IS militants left these structures fully mined.
Meanwhile, Qadri Jamil, one of the leaders of the Syrian Popular Front for Change and Liberation, told journalists Monday that the defeat of IS has a lot of symbolic value.
“The liberation of Palmyra is an important event. ISIS is an organization which presents a [long-term] danger to humanity. The defeat that ISIS has felt at Palmyra is more of a symbolic value,” he said.
On Sunday, President Putin congratulated the Syrian President Bashar Assad on retaking the ancient city of Palmyra from IS, while Putin stressed the importance of preserving the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
"In a telephone conversation with the Syrian president, Vladimir Putin congratulated his counterpart on retaking the city of Palmyra from terrorists and noted the importance of preserving this unique historic site for world culture," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Sunday.
With the help of Russian air support, the Syrian Army retook the historic city of Palmyra from IS, which had occupied it since last May. Jamil praised the part played by Russia in helping the Syrian Army, but criticized the West's lack of intervention.
“The victory in Palmyra has a great symbolic value and is important for Muslims as Islamic State are a threat to them. This victory is a step towards to being saved. The problem the West is facing is that they do not want to look at the long-term picture. Palmyra is a very important strategic point, but the West wants to underscore this event. This is a victory for the Syrian land-based forces and the Russian Air Force. This coalition has blossomed, unlike the Western coalition,” he said.
The Russian Air Force made 40 flights over the vicinity of Palmyra in the space of 24 hours, hitting 117 targets and killing over 80 militants, the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said Sunday.