A Russian orchestra held a surprise concert Thursday in the Syrian city of Palmyra, just weeks after the Islamic State’s retreat.
The Mariinsky Symphony Orchestra performed in an ancient Roman amphitheater, conducted by Valery Gergiev, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin; another Putin associate, cellist Sergei Roldugin, played in the orchestra. Gergiev told the audience the concert was a protest against ISIS militants who destroyed swaths of the city and used the amphitheater for executions, Reuters reports, and Putin appeared via video. “Today’s action involved major inconvenience and dangers for everyone, being in a country at war close to where hostilities are still ongoing,” he said. “That has demanded great strength and personal courage from you all. Thank you very much.”
Word spread about the concert just a few hours before it began, and the crowd was made up of area residents and Russian and Syrian military members. After Russian airstrikes bombarded the city in March, the Syrian government was able to regain control of Palmyra. When it was secured, Russian engineers visited the city to assess the damage done by ISIS, and the Russian government has already pledged to send experts to help with the restoration process. Catherine Garcia