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Russian conductor performs in Palmyra ruins

Russian conductor Valery Gergiev will perform a concerto in the ruined city of Palmyra, in modern Syria, today.

Gergiev, a noted supporter of Russian president Vladimir Putin, will be joined by St Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre at the Roman Theatre this evening (15.00 GMT), reports the state-owned Rossiya 24 news channel.

Syrian government troops supported by Russian airstrikes recaptured the 2,000-year-old Unesco World Heritage Site from the Islamic State (IS) on 27 March. IS troops destroyed a number of monuments they considered idolatrous during their 10-month occupation, including two temples and the ancient Lion of Al-lāt statue, and also used the city as a backdrop for a number of its notorious execution videos.

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

Steve Rosenberg, the BBC’s Moscow correspondent, writes that the concert shows that “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.”

Gergiev, who is also principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and the Munich Philharmonic, was widely criticised in the west in March 2014 for signing an open letter supporting Putin’s military intervention in Ukraine and subsequent annexation of the Crimea. His concerts have also been disrupted by gay rights activists angered by the Putin government’s enacting of a law that bans the distribution of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors.

Star Boot Sale aims to raise funds for refugees

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is teaming up with stars from music, art, film and sport to raise money for the Syrian refugee crisis.

The brainchild of Blur drummer Dave Rowntree, the Star Boot Sale will see some of the UK’s most well-known faces donating personal items for charity, including the Stone Roses, Hot Chip, Blur, comedian David Walliams, ex-Spice Girl Mel C and artist Dom Pattinson – a number of whom have agreed to make surprise appearances at the Old Truman Brewery in London on the day of the event, 22 May.

More than half of the population of Syria has fled their homes because of the conflict. Jordan is hosting 635,000 refugees, meaning one in every 10 people there has been displaced. Almost all of them are living outside of formal camps and have little access to even basic services.

Speaking of a recent visit to Jordan, Rowntree says: “Nothing can be more difficult than having to uproot your life and your family and leave everything behind. But that’s what this war has done to hundreds of thousands of Syrian people whose lives are now on hold.

“The refugee crisis is in the news every day, but many of us feel powerless to help. By taking part in the Star Boot Sale you can make a real difference to the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people”

“The refugee crisis is in the news every day, but many of us feel powerless to help. By taking part in the Star Boot Sale you can make a real difference to the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. It will be a fun day out with shopping, entertainment and food stands – but most importantly, all funds raised will support the IRC’s vital work in the region.”

The Star Boot Sale will also include an online auction of items donated by celebrities including Coldplay, Stephen Fry, Ant & Dec and actor Paddy Considine, ranging from signed records to unique artwork by some of the UK’s leading artists. These will be available to purchase through boot sale app Shpock.

Armin Strbac, co-founder of Shpock, says: “Shpock is excited to be a part of the Star Boot Sale 2016, and supporting the IRC to raise vital funds for thousands of people who have been forced from their homes. The money will go towards vital mobile health clinics ensuring that refugees can have access to doctors, nurses and midwives and receive the care they deserve.”

Tickets for the event, costing £13.50 plus fees, are sale now. For more information and to receive updates about celebrities’ items added to the online auction visit www.starbootsale.com or follow @starbootsale and @IRCUK.