Conductor to hold Palmyra concert

Valery Gergiev conducting - April 2013Image copyright
Alexander Shapunov

Image caption

Valery Gergiev has also worked with the London Symphony Orchestra

A renowned Russian conductor will perform in the ruins of Palmyra in Syria on Thursday, Russian media say.

Valery Gergiev, who supported Vladimir Putin’s presidential run in 2012, will perform at Palmyra’s Roman Theatre, Rossiya 24 reported.

Syrian forces, backed by Russian air strikes, took back Palmyra from the so-called Islamic State (IS) in March.

Last July, IS posted footage online showing some of its fighters carrying out killings in the ancient theatre.

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

Palmyra in pictures

Mr Gergiev travelled to Syria with the Symphony Orchestra of St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, where he is artistic director.

Media captionParts of the ancient city of Palmyra were reduced to rubble by the jihadists

He also works as the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 2014, he backed Mr Putin over the annexation of the Crimea, and in 2008, performed in the capital of Georgia’s South Ossetia region when Russia and Georgia were fighting over the territory.

Analysis: Steve Rosenberg, BBC News, Moscow

This is more than just about music.

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, and, in the case of Palmyra, saving a Unesco heritage site.

Moscow will be hoping that images of its classical musicians in Syria will reinforce the message that Russia is a force for good.

Such a musical message will be well received back home: for months now Russian TV has been assuring viewers Russia’s military intervention in Syria has benefited the world by taking on international terrorism.

But Western officials remain suspicious of Russia’s intentions. Moscow has faced accusations that it has not done enough to rein in Syrian government forces. The Russians deny that and accuse America of not using its influence with the Syrian opposition to halt the fighting.

Islamic State destroyed a number of monuments during their 10-month occupation of Palmyra and its associated Unesco World Heritage site.

Two 2,000-year-old temples, an arch and funerary towers were left in ruins.

The jihadist group, which has also demolished several pre-Islamic sites in neighbouring Iraq, believes that such structures are idolatrous.

While some treasured monuments were destroyed, much of the ancient city’s ruins were unaffected.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Victory Day military show in Moscow on 9 May will feature aircraft used in the Syria campaign, Russia’s RBK news website reports. They include the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter, a new model combat-tested in Syria.

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