MOSCOW, January 11 (Itar-Tass) —— Russian diplomats in Damascus live their usual peaceful life. Officials of the diplomatic mission told Itar-Tass by phone on Wednesday, January 11, about their everyday life, their New Year’s Eve celebrations and the atmosphere in the city.
“I arrived in Damascus in August believing that there are shoot-outs here, but it turned out that there is nothing of the kind,” said press attach· Artyom Savelyev. He said worried relatives often make calls from Moscow to Embassy officials, asking them about how they live and whether they can venture into the streets.
“I can say there is nothing frightful in the streets of the city,” the diplomat said. “The most frightening thing here are the media information campaigns which try to stir up tensions that do not exist and exaggerate the scope of incidents. This is unpleasant,” Savelyev said.
Contrary to reports of some mass media, the press attache said, shops, restaurants and cinema houses are open all day long. “There are no bans. Local residents and Embassy officials walk in the streets. I would say the situation is calm,” he noted. “It is only that the number of large marches in support of the present regime increased in the recent months and this is quite apparent after the terrorist acts,” Savelyev added. “Traffic jams are the only discomfort from this to us.”
A sense of disquietude persists, nevertheless, first of all because of threats of terrorism. “But wherever explosions happen, everybody is concerned, regardless of the country,” diplomats say.
They note that after the terrorist acts the Syrian side reinforced guard of the diplomatic missions, including the Russian one.
“We often go to the city,” the press attach· said, “but Embassy staffers are recommended to have mobile telephones or pay phone cards on them.” “The only ban regards children who should not leave the Embassy unaccompanied by their parents,” Savelyev said.
“It was learned from the Secretariat of the diplomatic mission that correspondents from Moscow visited Damascus the other day and were very much surprised that they could go to restaurants and travel over the city and that there were no barricades and no clashes with police.
The Embassy staffers celebrated the New Year’s Eve merrily. There was a concert and a discotheque in the grand hall of the mission and a dinner with sparkling wine. “All is well with us now,” the diplomats said.