Russians building army base at Syria’s Palmyra site

Russian base seen in satellite photo. Photo: ASOR/DigiGlobe


Beirut: The Russian military is constructing a new army base in the central Syrian town of Palmyra, within the protected zone that holds the archaeological site listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site and without asking for permission from relevant authorities, an American heritage organisation and a top Syrian archaeologist said Tuesday.

The American School of Oriental Research’s Cultural Heritage Initiative posted pictures from the satellite imagery and analytics company DigitalGlobe that show the construction on the edge of the ancient site that was damaged by the Islamic State group, which held Palmyra for 10 months.

A UNESCO official said it was unclear whether the encampment was in a buffer zone to the archaeological site but said it does not form a threat to the historic area.

Maamoun Abdulkarim, head of the Antiquities and Museums Department in Damascus, told The Associated Press that the Russians are building small barracks that includes offices and clinics.

Abdulkarim said his organization was not asked for permission but added that IS is close to the town and the presence of Russian and Syrian troops is important to ensure that the site remains in government hands.

“We refuse to give permission even if it was for a small room to be built inside the site whether it is for the Syrian army, Russian army or anyone else,” Abdulkarim said by telephone from Damascus. “We will never give such permission because this will be in violation of the archaeology law.”

“We’re going to look at the satellite pictures to see if it is inside the buffer zone,” the official said on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.

The official said the Russian troops are conducting demining operations in the area.

Full article: Russians building army base at Syria’s Palmyra site (The Age)

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