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Russia to send some 100 sappers to Syria for Palmyra demining — source

March 29, 2016, 10:12 UTC+3

The first groups of Russian sappers have been dispatched to Syria

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© Valeriy Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, March 29. /TASS/. The mine clearing operation in Syria’s ancient city of Palmyra will last at least several months, a military-diplomatic source told TASS on Tuesday.

According to the source, the total number of Russian sappers and detector dog handlers that will be engaged in the mine clearing operation in the city of Palmyra in Syria will reach some 100 people.

"The number of sappers together with the dog handlers will reach about 100 people," he said.

It became known earlier on Tuesday that the first groups of Russian sappers have been dispatched to Syria. According to the source, they will conduct terrain reconnaissance together with the Syrian government troops ahead of the mine clearing operation.

"As soon as our and Syrian military complete the terrain reconnaissance, the mine clearing operation in Palmyra will begin at once. The operation will supposedly last for at least several months," he said. According to the source, the sappers will have to demine not only the ancient historic part of the city, but also approach route to Palmyra.

On Monday, Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov said that sappers with robots and sniffer dogs for mine detection would be dispatched from Russia to Syria. He also invited other countries to join the Palmyra mine clearing operation.

The Syrian army said on Sunday that it liberated the ancient city of Palmyra, a UNESCO world heritage site, with support from the Russian air group.

Palmyra, an ancient city in Syria’s Homs province some 210 kilometers from Damascus, was seized by gunmen of the Islamic State (a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia) in early summer 2015. The Syrian authorities said back then that Palmyra with its monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centers of the ancient world standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, could share the fate of Iraq’s ancient cities of Assur, Nimrud and Hatra that were destroyed by Islamic State militants.

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