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Hermitage chief: New Palmyra destruction comes across as militants' vengeance

January 20, 20:29 UTC+3 St PETERSBURG

It was reported earlier that the Islamic State militants had destroyed the facade of the Roman theater and the Tetrapylon compound

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Director General of the State Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky

Director General of the State Hermitage Museum Mikhail Piotrovsky

© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

St PETERSBURG, January 20. /TASS/. New destructions of monuments in Palmyra come across as acts of the militants' vengeance, Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky, the Director General of the State Hermitage Museum said on Thursday.

Reports said earlier the Islamic State militants had destroyed the facade of the Roman theater and the Tetrapylon compound. There was no data on how severely the monuments had suffered at the vandals' hands.

"We're dealing here with the reprisals they promised long ago," Dr. Piotrovsky said.

"It was quite some time ago probably as far back as last May that the IS radio said they would come and stage a new 'concert' in the theater, and now they've done it," he said making a reference to a concert that the Mariinsky Theater symphony orchestra from Russia gave at the site of the Roman theater last May, soon after the militant units had been driven out the ancient city for the first time.

He said the whole situation stemmed from a change of military objectives and the beginning of an offensive later than planned initially.

"This left Palmyra open to the enemy forces," Dr. Piotrovsky said.

"As for the Roman Theater, the whole of it has undergone restoration works and it can undergo them again," he indicated.

He recalled the plans for Palmyra's restoration had been drawn up and they were conceived when the ancient city was in the militants' grip the previous time. Selection and scrutiny of materials on 'the gem of the Syrian Desert' stored in the largest museums of the world, including the State Hermitage Museum was underway and Russian experts had created a 3D model of Palmyra on the basis of aerial photography done on the spot in September 2016.

The 3D model will help researchers to assess the condition of each architectural object and to discuss opportunities for restoration without making field trips there.

Experts said earlier the model would be useful for restorers even in case of new destructions of monuments in Palmyra.

The IS units assaulted Palmyra, which is located 240 km away from Damascus, on December 9, 2016. They also tried to seize oil wells and an airbase near the city.

On December 11, the Syrian government army abandoned the central areas of the city.

The previous liberation of the place, which is a cluster of antique architectural marvels, occurred on March 27, 2016. It was liberated with the assistance from the Russian Aerospace Force.

Russian army engineers took part in mine-clearing operations of the monuments of antiquity and others parts of the city.

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