Tags: russian base | syria | palmyra | unesco

Russian Base in Syria Town of Palmyra Just for De-Mining: Top Official

Image: Russian Base in Syria Town of Palmyra Just for De-Mining: Top Official
In this Thursday, April 14, 2016 photo, Journalists are seen next to Russian vehicles as they block a road leading to the ancient city of Palmyra in central Homs province, Syria. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

By    |   Wednesday, 18 May 2016 10:44 AM

A report that the Russians are building a military base in Syria near the historic town of Palmyra is being disputed by a Russian military official, according to its state-run news agency TASS.

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that a new army base was being built by the Russian military in Palmyra, which is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a world heritage site.

The Islamic State once held the town for 10 months before being pushed out by Syrian troops and Russian airstrikes in March. The American School of Oriental Research's Cultural Heritage Initiative posted pictures from the satellite imagery and analytics company DigitalGlobe that show the construction of the reported military facility at the edge of the ancient site.

A Russian official, through TASS, refuted The Associated Press story on Tuesday, claiming that the Russian military only has a temporary camp "for sappers" involved in clearing mines left by militants.

"There have been no and are no 'new Russian bases' on the territory of Syria's Palmyra," Russian defense ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told TASS on Tuesday.

"The satellite photographs of the area's territory, published by UNESCO and mentioned by the agency… feature a temporary camp of units of the International Anti-Mine Center of Russia's Armed Forces, which earlier engaged in mine clearing in the historical part of Palmyra, and today [engage in mine clearing] in the locality of Tadmur," Konashenkov added.

While Maamoun Abdulkarim, head of the antiquities and museums department in Damascus, told The Associated Press that the Russians did not ask permission to build what was called a small barracks, Konashenkov told TASS that authorities were contacted.

"The deployment of the temporary camp until the end of the mine clearing effort has been agreed with the culture ministry and other state institutions of the Syrian Arab Republic," Konashenkov said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad praised the recapture of Palmyra in March by the country's army, noted the BBC News. Abdulkarim told Agence France-Presse that the damage to historic artifacts by the Islamic State in Palmyra was less than first thought.

"We were expecting the worst," Abdulkarim told AFP, according to the BBC News. "But the landscape, in general, is in good shape."

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A report that the Russians are building a military base in Syria near the historic town of Palmyra is being disputed by a Russian military official, according to its state-run news agency TASS.
russian base, syria, palmyra, unesco
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2016-44-18
Wednesday, 18 May 2016 10:44 AM
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