MOSCOW, May 17. /TASS/. Media claims that Russia is allegedly establishing a military base in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra are false - there is only a temporary camp for sappers, who are involved in mine clearing in the city, there, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday.
In this way the general commented on AP’s reports citing a US cultural heritage protection organization that Russia’s military are building a new military base in Palmyra, as well as on the publication of a satellite image of a military town in close proximity to the cultural facilities.
"There have been no and are no ‘new Russian bases’ on the territory of Syria's Palmyra. 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 said.
"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," he said.
The temporary camp houses accommodation modules, a field hospital where aid is provided to local residents, as well as a field bakery "whose products are also handed out to Syrians," Konashenkov said.
"I want to note that the temporary camp of military engineers, the hospital and the bakery constitute no secret," he said. More than 150 journalists of leading foreign media got familiarized with their work and made journalistic stories from there during the latest press tour on May 5, when Palmyra hosted a concert of Maestro Valery Gergiyev with the Mariinsky Theater orchestra."
"Besides, I will recall that jointly with foreign journalists, a numerous group of international UNESCO experts who flew to attend the concert visited the camp," the spokesman said.
He said that Associated Press representatives were invited to the press tour on May 5.
"But for unknown reasons, they refused to take part in it then. I believe that if journalists of the influential agency had personally visited Palmyra then and that temporary camp, today there would be no ‘pseudo-sensation’, invented by them, on construction by Russians of a ‘new base in Palmyra’," Konashenkov said.
Igor Konashenkov said in early May that having another base in Syria would not be economically feasible for the Russian Aerospace Forces.
"There’s absolutely no need for that. This is not expedient even economically," Konashenkov told the media in reply to a question.
He explained that practically all aircraft based at Hmeimim had a range long enough to reach any point of Syria. The air facility is totally self-reliant. All crucial supplies, such as fuel, ammunition and other items are delivered from Russia. Planes and helicopters undergo all maintenance and repairs locally.