Russian Orchestra Stages Concert in Syria's Palmyra Amphitheater

The performance is a show of 'solidarity with those fighting terrorists,' says the Kremlin; Russian airstrikes helped push out ISIS from the city a month ago.

People attend a music concert in the ancient theater of Syria's ravaged Palmyra on May 6, 2016
AFP, LOUAI BESHARA

Russia's famous Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra staged a classical music concert in the amphitheater of Syria's Palmyra later on Thursday, just over a month after Russian airstrikes helped push Islamic State militants from the ancient city.

The Kremlin said the concert, conducted by Valery Gergiev, a strong supporter of President Vladimir Putin, was a brilliant way of showing solidarity with Russian forces fighting in Syria as well as the Syrian army.

Russian conductor Valery Gergiev leads a concert in the amphitheatre of the ancient city of Palmyra on May 5, 2016.
AFP, Russian Defence Ministry / Vadim Grishankin

"The masters of culture are showing their solidarity by standing by those fighting terrorists," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow ahead of the concert. "This of course deserves the highest appreciation."

The event, held in the city's Roman amphitheater, is called "With a prayer about Palmyra. Music revives the ancient walls."

Russian conductor Valery Gergiev leads a concert in the amphitheatre of the ancient city of Palmyra on May 5, 2016.
AFP, VASILY MAXIMOV

Islamic State used the amphitheater as a venue to conduct public executions.

Russian special forces called in airstrikes in March to help the Syrian government retake the city and Russian engineers later demined Palmyra. Moscow has also said its experts are ready to help restore the city, a UNESCO world heritage site, parts of which militants destroyed.

People visit the ruins of the historic city of Palmyra ahead of a musical event at its amphitheatre, Syria May 6, 2016.
Reuters, Omar Sanadiki

Thursday's concert has echoes of a similar performance, also conducted by Gergiev, in August 2008, when the Mariinsky performed in front of the bombed-out parliament of the self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia after Russian forces defeated the Georgian army in a short war over the territory.

Russian music concert in the ancient theater of Syria's ravaged city of Palmyra on May 6, 2016.
AFP, LOUAI BESHARA