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Russian sappers have demined 8,500 buildings in Syria’s Palmyra — official

May 05, 17:35 UTC+3
Specialists from Russia’s international mine-clearing center have spent the past week training their Syrian counterparts to use Russian protective gear and instruments to search for explosive devices
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© Konstantin Leyfer/TASS

PALMYRA (Syria), May 5. /TASS/. Russian sappers have cleared of mines and ammunition 8,500 buildings and facilities in the Syrian ancient city of Palmyra that was liberated from the Islamic State (IS) militants, chief of the engineer troops of the Russian Armed Forces Yuri Stavitsky told reporters on Thursday.

After mine clearing in the historic part of Palmyra the Russian sappers started demining of the city’s residential areas.

"In total, we have cleared of mines 825 hectares in the city, 8,500 buildings and facilities, found and defused about 18,000 explosive objects," Stavitsky said.

According to him, the Russian sappers have had to deal with new intricate mine planting methods used by the militants. "We have found radio-controlled IEDs, wire-controlled land mines, anti-disturbance fuse mines, as well as very many various mine traps," General Stavitsky said.

Russian sappers train Syrian counterparts to use Russian equipment

According to Stavitsky, specialists from Russia’s international mine-clearing center have spent the past week training their Syrian counterparts to use Russian protective gear and instruments to search for explosive devices.

"We instruct them in the use of Russian detectors of explosive items and protective gear, which have proven very effective," he said.

Russian specialists have been involved in mine-clearing in Palmyra since April 2. A whole unit of the Russian armed forces’ international mine-clearing center was airlifted to Syria for doing the job.

According to previous reports, the Russian experts have been involved in the Palmyra mine clearing operation since April 2. Stavitsky reported full demining of the city’s ancient historic part on April 21. He said then that an area of more than 230 hectares in the city was cleared of explosive devices.

Palmyra, an ancient city in Syria’s Homs province, was under the control of Islamic State militants since May 2015 and was liberated by the Syrian army on March 27, 2016, with support from the Russian air group and special operations forces. The city referred to as the "gem" of the Syrian Desert was one of the richest ancient civilization centers. The Silk Route ran through Palmyra located in an oasis some 240 kilometers of Damascus. Palmyra’s architectural museum complex has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

According to the Russian military, a total of 234 hectares were cleared in the city, the sappers found and defused some 3,000 mines. After that the Russian military started demining the city’s residential area where they have to clear of mines and ammunition 560 hectares.

Russian experts have been engaged in the operation to clear Palmyra of mines from April 2. For that, Russian military-transport planes airlifted a team of field engineers from the international anti-mine center of the Russian Armed Forces. Dogs and robots were used to speed up the work. The work had been complicated by a high density of planted ammunition and militants’ using powerful radio-controlled devices, many of them planted as antihandling fuses.

Also, the Russian team was training Syrian specialists. In order to supply the returning residents with water, water supply was organized. Also, a field hospital was functioning. The construction of a town for UNESCO restoration teams was completed. Russia also provides assistance to engineer units of the Syrian armed forces in demining the city of al-Qaryatain. Facilities of infrastructure are being restored in the town, and 98 families have returned to their homes.

In a televised linkup in late April, President Vladimir Putin thanked the Russian military working to clear Palmyra of mines. "Convey thanks to the personnel - officers, soldiers, supporting services. Thank you very much. I wish you success," the Russian president said.

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