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Russian diplomat hails concert in Palmyra as lofty response to Syria's foes

On May 5 the Mariinsky theater symphony orchestra under the baton of maestro Valery Gergiyev gave a concert in the famous Roman theater in Palmyra

MOSCOW, May 6. /TASS/. A lofty response to those who sought to ruin Syria that is how the Russian Foreign Ministry's envoy for human rights and supremacy of law, Konstantin Dolgov described the concert that the Mariinsky theater symphony orchestra under the baton of maestro Valery Gergiyev gave on Thursday in the famous Roman theater in Palmyra.

"The concert in Palmyra came across as a lofty response to those who sought to ruin Syria, to split it as a civilization along the lines of ethnic and/or religious identity and weed out the Christian roots found there," Dolgov twitted.

The concert titled 'Prayer for Palmyra: Music Revives Ancient Walls' included Bach's Ciaconna played by violinist Pavel Milyukov, Serge Prokofiyev's Symphony No. 1 in the rendition of the Mariinsky orchestra and Rodion Schedrin's Cotillion that was performed by cellist Sergei Roldugin, the artistic director of the St Petersburg House of Music.

Palmyra, built in an oasis in the Syrian desert between Damascus and Euphrates, used to be one of the richest cities of late antiquity. UNESCO placed its archeological rarities and monuments on the list of world cultural heritage and historic sites in 1980.

An almost year-long reign of the Islamic State terrorists there left the place severely damaged. They demolished the city's most ancient monument, the Temple of Bel built in 32 AD, the Temple of Baal Shamin, the Palmyrene tombs (four stories high stone towers), the Arc of Triumph, which every Soviet school kid new from photos on the covers of textbooks on the history of ancient world, and the statue of the Lion of al-Lat.

Experts of the Russian Armed Forces took part in designing the operation to drive the Islamic State out of the city, which was often referred to in travel books and tourist guides as 'the Venice of the sands'. Crews of the Russian Aerospace Force made about 500 combat sorties while the Syrian government troops were recapturing the place.

Talks between Russia and UNESCO on rehabilitation and restoration of the city are underway. According to Dr. Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, they are making fair progress but difficulties have surfaced, too.

Apart from the State Hermitage Museum, which boasts one of the largest and highly diversified collections in the world and is an important museum research center, readiness to contribute to the restoration of the majestic ancient city has been expressed by the Dmitry Likhachov Institute for Research into Cultural and Natural Heritage (the Heritage Institute).