A Russian symphony orchestra played a surprise concert in Syria’s ruins of Palmyra, on the site where ISIS killed 25 people in 2015.
Russia’s Mariinsky Theatre performed in a Roman amphitheater to a crowd that included flown-in reporters, Syrian soldiers, Russian officials and UNESCO dignitaries, reports the New York Times. Thursday’s concert comes after Russia’s military helped dictator Bashar al Assad’s forces push ISIS out of the area.
Led by renowned Russian conductor Valery Gergiev, the symphony orchestra played Bach as well as pieces by two Russian composers. Cellist Sergei P. Roldugin, a close associate of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin whose tax affairs came under scrutiny in the Panama Papers, also performed with the orchestra.
In a video link from his vacation home, Putin thanked the musicians saying that the performance gave “hope for Palmyra’s revival as the heritage of the whole community” reports the Times. “But also as hope that our contemporary civilization will be relieved from this horrible disease, international terrorism.”