Moscow revealed on Thursday the details of the arrangements that were carried out for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s surprise visit to Damascus exactly a year ago.
The documentary “No Right for Error. A Christmas Visit to Damascus” shed light on the massive security preparations and the major deliberate misleading media campaign that preceded the visit to the region that was on edge after the US killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3, 2020.
Putin visited the Syrian capital four days later on Orthodox Christmas Day. Footage of the Russian leader’s tour of a Russian military center in Damascus accompanied by president Bashar Assad were widely circulated.
It was significant that the leaders did not meet at the presidential palace. They were also shown visiting the Umayyad Mosque and the Mariamite Cathedral of Damascus.
The documentary, aired by Russia 1 TV channel, revealed that Putin had agreed with Assad not to disclose the details of the trip.
In the documentary, the Russian president commented on how “life had returned to normal in Damascus,” noting, however, the many checkpoints that dotted the capital.
Transportation, shops, restaurants and cafes were operating normally and many people were visiting the historic part of the city, he continued.
He said that security restrictions meant that he would not be able to walk on the streets. In the few minutes that he did, he encountered very friendly people.
Moreover, he revealed that he sought to visit the Mariamite Cathedral on the occasion of Orthodox Christmas. He chose to make a stop at the Umayyad Mosque because the remains of John the Baptist are buried there.
He acknowledged that he was surprised that the remains have been kept so carefully by Muslims. John the Baptist is the prophet Yahya in Islam, while Jesus Christ is the prophet Isa in Islam, he went on to say, stressing that this highlights the rapprochement between the Christian and Muslim religions.
He also thanked Muslim officials for protecting the Christian legacy in Syria.