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Russian museum director says Syrian Palmyra could have been saved from IS militants

December 14, 2015, 21:31 UTC+3 MOSCOW

Mikhail Piotrovsky says the Russian Hermitage Museum is collecting material to help the restoration of the ancient city

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© SANA via AP

MOSCOW, December 14. /TASS/. The Syrian city of Palmyra, where Islamic State terrorists destroyed UNESCO world heritage sites, could have been saved, Mikhail Piotrovsky, director of the Russian Hermitage Museum owning one of the world's oldest and biggest art collections, said on Monday.

"Palmyra could have been saved, but there were no Russians and others did not know what to do without occasionally helping the Syrian militants," Piotrovsky told the fourth meeting of the St Petersburg cultural forum.

Earlier on Monday, Piotrovsky told the Rossiya-24 TV channel that the Russian Hermitage Museum was collecting material to help the restoration of Palmyra.

"Currently we are gathering the documents and materials dedicated to the monuments," he said. "When everything calms down, they will have to reconstruct the sites as we did with the destroyed suburbs of St. Petersburg."

The Palmyra collection of the Hermitage museum comprises ten burial relief pieces, sculpture fragments, a stone slab of the world’s first tax law, dating back to 136 AD, and some coins.

According to Piotrovsky, the museum may organize an exhibition of the showpieces from Palmyra.

Palmyra, located in the Syrian Desert between Damascus and the Euphrates, was one of the richest cities of antiquity. Tradition suggests that the biblical King Solomon founded the city.

UNESCO declared the remains of its once majestic temples and buildings world cultural heritage sites in 1980.

Islamic State militants who seized Palmyra on May 20 destroyed several most ancient monuments, including the 2,000-year old statue of the Lion of al-Lat, the temple of Baal Shamin built during the Roman rule in the 1st century AD, and the temple of Bel, the largest edifice on the compound that was erected during the reign of Emperor Tiberius in 32 AD.

The terrorists also beheaded the 80-year-old Dr. Haled al-Asaad, one of the most famous Syrian archeologists who devoted his whole life to the studies of Palmyra heritage.

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