MOSCOW, March 2. /TASS/. Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reported to President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that the Syrian government troops have completed their operation to seize Palmyra with the support of the Russian air task force, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.
Militants of the Islamic State terrorist grouping (outlawed in Russia) seized Palmyra in May 2015 and in late March 2016 the Syrian government troops liberated the city with the support of the Russian air task force. In December last year, Palmyra was recaptured by extremists.
A year ago, the operation to free Palmyra lasted two weeks. The Syrian government troops stormed the ancient fortress at the entrance to the city on March 25, 2016. Two days later, they entered Palmyra. Large contribution to the liberation of "the pearl of the Syrian desert" was made by the Russian air task force, which delivered pinpointed airstrikes on IS positions. Russian combat engineers subsequently removed mines from the famous ruins of the ancient city.
Terrorists regained control of Palmyra on December 11 last year after a retreat of the government forces. The army and people’s militia were able to evacuate 80% of residents before their retreat.
During the period of their control of the ancient city (from May 2015 to March 2016), IS vandals destroyed the famous Arch of Triumph with the colonnade - the city’s visiting card - and also blew up the Temple of Baalshamin and the sanctuary of the supreme Semitic god Baal. The militants plundered the national museum and the Palmyra Necropolis - the tower tombs of the patricians.
The terrorists brutally killed Syrian scientist Khaled al-Assad after the world-renowned 82-year-old archeologist refused to show vandals the places where artefacts were hidden.
On January 20, the IS terrorists destroyed another renowned monument of ancient Palmyra: the tetrapylon monument and the facade of the ancient Roman theater built in the second century A.D. Its stage hosted a concert on May 5 last year by Russia’s Mariinsky Theater conducted by Valery Gergiyev.
The Syrian government troops established earlier on Thursday full control of the Jabal al-Tar strategic heights over Palmyra.