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Putin instructs defense minister to report on plans to clear Palmyra of mines

March 29, 19:29 UTC+3
The Russian leader said that during a phone conversation with UNESCO head and Syrian president, an agreement was reached that Russia will render support in the effort to clear Palmyra of mines
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Sergey Shoigu (left) and Vladimir Putin

Sergey Shoigu (left) and Vladimir Putin

© Mikhail Metsel/TASS Archive

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, March 29. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has instructed Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu to report on plans to clear Palmyra of mines.

"I am asking the defense minister to report after our meeting today what is planned soon, how you think to build that work to clear Palmyra of mines," Putin said. "We have already spoken with you, Sergey Kozhugetovich, I know that you have started preparations."

The Russian leader said that during a telephone conversation with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova and Syrian President Bashar Assad, an agreement was reached that Russia will render support in the effort to clear Palmyra, its approaches and historical values of mines.

"I would like to return once again to the issue of liberation of the city of Palmyra in Syria by Syrian troops with our most active support and participation. First, I want to congratulate our servicemen, who made a serious contribution to the cause of the fight against terrorism," Putin said.

"Second, there’s an issue of purely humanitarian nature. It’s mine clearing," he said at a meeting of the military-technical cooperation commission.

Putin said he discussed that issue with the Syrian president and the UNESCO chief.

"In a phone conversation with the UNESCO director-general, and later with the president of the Syrian Republic, we agreed that we, Russia, will provide support in the effort to clear Palmyra, approaches to Palmyra and, which is particularly important, historical values, of mines," he said.

Syrian media reported early Sunday morning that the government troops had liberated the ancient town of Palmyra, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list, located 215 km (133.5 miles) from Damascus and started mine-clearing in the streets of the town.

Situation in Syria

The ceasefire regime took effect in Syria on February 27. An hour before, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution supporting a cessation of hostilities. The document drafted by Russia and the United States was backed by all 15 Security Council member states.

The ceasefire regime does not cover the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations as well as other groups ruled terrorist by the Security Council.

The United Nations has noted that the ceasefire regime, despite separate cases of violations, has been observed on the whole and has led to a considerable reduction of the level of violence in Syria.

Russia’s Aerospace Forces started delivering pinpoint strikes in Syria at facilities of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorist organizations, which are banned in Russia, on September 30, 2015, on a request from Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On March 14, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to start, from March 15, withdrawing the main part of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ group from Syria. Putin said the tasks set before the military "have been fulfilled on the whole." Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said strikes on terrorists will continue to be delivered.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said March 25 that at least 255,000 people have been killed in Syria during the war. Ban called for the soonest possible termination of the conflict and noted the role Russia and the United States play in efforts on peace settlement.

He said 4 million Syrians have become refugees and another 12 million people inside of the country need humanitarian assistance. Ban added that most part of Syria lies in ruins - over 50% of infrastructure has been destroyed.

On March 24, the first round of indirect intra-Syrian talks ended in Geneva. Their participants - a delegation of the Syrian government and a delegation of the opposition - did not meet each other but communicated through special envoy of the UN secretary general on Syria Staffan de Mistura.

Discussions are due to resume in the first half of April.

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