05/05/2016, 18.48
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Moscow holds liberation concert in Palmyra, UNESCO world heritage site

Valery Gergiev and the Symphony Orchestra of St Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre perform in the liberated city. A Putin supporter, conductor played in other warzones. Concert was broadcast in Russia. For analysists, Moscow wants to showcase its contribution to Syria’s renaissance.

Moscow (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A renowned Russian conductor, Valery Gergiev, performed a concert today amid the ruins of Palmyra in Syria to mark its liberation from the Islamic State (IS) group, Russian media report.

Russian military support, especially from the air, played a key role in taking back the city. Mr Gergiev supported Vladimir Putin's presidential run in 2012. 

The musical event was held in Palmyra' ancient Roman theatre, Rossiya 24 reported. IS forces were pushed out in March. They had seized the site in August 2015.

During their occupation, the terrorists had executed the director of the local antiquity museum, and destroyed a number of monuments. They also used the main square for mass executions (pictured). 

Rossiya 24 said the concert would be broadcast on Russian television later on Thursday.

Mr Gergiev travelled to Syria with the Symphony Orchestra of St Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre, where he is artistic director. He also works as the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

He has performed in warzones before. In 2008, he directed a concert in the capital of Georgia's South Ossetia region when Russia and Georgia were fighting over the territory.

In 2014, he backed Mr Putin over the annexation of the Crimea.

By organising a concert in the ruins of Palmyra, Russia wants the world to see that it is making a positive contribution in Syria: bringing peace and stability to the country.

However, Western officials remain suspicious of Russia's intentions. Moscow has faced accusations that it has not done enough to rein in Syrian government forces, thus blocking the transition process and ultimately peace plans.

Since during its ten-month occupation of the UNESCO World Heritage site, IS destroyed scores of monuments and antiquities, the international community welcomed the city’s liberation by Syrian forces (and Russia planes).

For analysts and experts, the loss of Palmyra represents a major setback for the Jihadi group, one of its major defeats since it seized swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014.

Since March, Syrian President Assad called the operation a "major achievement" in the "fight against terrorism", saying that it would have been impossible without Russian support.

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