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Russians alarmed by fate of Palmyra after its seizure by Isis

May 23, 2015, 2:14 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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MOSCOW, May 22. /TASS/. Russians are seriously alarmed by the situation around the Syrian city of Palmyra, a historical and architectural gem of the Middle Eastern deserts, Gennady Gatilov, a Deputy Foreign Minister told TASS on Friday.

"We’re really worried about the plight of the sites of world historical heritage located in that city," he said.

"Russia condemns the terrorists’ actions on the territories they control and the crimes they’re committing against the local population," Gatilov said.

"Moscow is watching with great concern the situation taking shape in Palmyra after the latter city was seized by Isil extremists," he said. "Their actions can’t be described otherwise than acts of vandalism and trampling on the general human values."

Palmyra, a place some 240 km away from Damascus, boasts an unparalleled compound of surviving instances of Roman architecture of the earliest period of the Christian era. UNESCO has listed it as a site of Outstanding Universal Value.

Units of the Syrian Army moved out of it on Wednesday and took defensive positions on its outskirts. Prior to abandoning the place, the military managed to evacuate the most precious statues and bas-reliefs from there.

Civilian population was evacuated, too.

To seize the city, which the troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had been defending for more than a week, Isil had to bring in reinforcements from Iraq’s Anbar Province.

Gennady Gatilov recalled that UNESCO’s Director General, Dr. Irina Bokova had levelled sharp criticism at Isil’s actions a short while ago and had called on the international community to put brake on the military actions in Palmyra and to put its best efforts into defending the global cultural heritage.

On Thursday, Dr. Bokova described the destruction of the monuments of antiquity in Palmyra by Isil forces as a war crime. It is important for the UN Security Council and all the political and religious leaders to issue calls for ruling out further destructions, she said.

An appeal to the commanders of the Syrian Army and the international community to defend Palmyra, one of the most remarkable monuments of the later Roman epoch, was made earlier by Maamoun Abdulkarikm, the General Director of the Syrian Directorate General for Antiquities and Museums. A battle between civilization and barbarianism was unfolding near the walls of the ancient city, he wrote.

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