"Russia has stepped up a campaign to get the United Nations to demine Syria's majestic Roman ruins in Palmyra, but some Western diplomats fear the Kremlin is only seeking to get other countries to help it exploit the city's rich natural resources.
The Russian government's push to protect Syria's ancient ruins, these diplomats note, coincides with reports of an effort by Russia to convince private security companies to secure territory around Palmyra from Islamic State militants in exchange for the rights to lucrative gas and mining rights.
'Palmyra is literally sown with mines and unexploded ordnance,' Russian diplomat Evgeniy Zagayanov told the Security Council back in March, noting that Russian demining efforts underway in Palmyra were insufficient to get the job done. He called it 'vital' that the U.N. and other governments make a 'significant financial investment' in ridding Palmyra of its explosives...
Critics charge that Moscow is pushing demining as part of a broader diplomatic gambit to reframe the international humanitarian debate on Syria, moving it away from a focus on pursuing war crimes prosecution against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government for starving hundreds of thousands of civilians in besieged opposition-controlled towns. Instead, Russia is appealing to colleagues to view humanitarian assistance - including the clearance of land mines - to towns and cities captured by the Syrian government and its allies as a priority..."