17 October / 2018

Extracts from the briefing by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova, Moscow, October 17, 2018. Situation around the White Helmets

As more Syrian regions return back to a normal way of life, people are not worried anymore about the safety of their relatives as well as their friends and are starting to reveal what they have gone through.

Shocking details are being brought up about the activities of the White Helmets, which many in the West consider heroes and even saviours, but who in fact are humanitarian aid pseudo-providers. It is frightening to consider what people had to go through in these territories.

It is obvious not only to us that the White Helmets have completely discredited themselves as an authoritative data source; they were promoted as such by the West, together with what has been advertised in London as the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It is gratifying to know that both the political establishment as well as the general public of the sponsoring countries of these NGOs have an increasing number of those who doubt the viability of the further funding of the White Helmets.

It is only too obvious that the White Helmets activists will continue doing their criminal jobs so long as it is required by their creators and sponsors. An example is the developments in the Idlib de-escalation zone, where there might be another staged chemical attack by Syrian troops. Independent journalists, doctors, bloggers such as Vanessa Beeley and Richard Labeviere, members of the organisation, Swedish Doctors for Human Rights, not only exposed the White Helmets, but also published shocking facts that prove that they deliberately harmed the health of civilians in Syria just for the sake of getting an interesting piece of footage to later be used as propaganda material.

Locals say that, for instance, in Aleppo, where things are getting back to normal, those who want to join the White Helmets do not need to be able to provide first aid, but should have recommendations from the local office of Jabhat al-Nusra. The information about the White Helmets’ admirable altruism turned out to be exaggerated.  Most of its members were not volunteers, but received a monthly pay package. Even after joining the organisation, they did not bother learning basic medical skills, for they were not paid for doing this. However, military training, including shooting and mine and blast training were obligatory.

It is interesting how those who praised this organisation and raised initiatives to award it with international prizes, those who made them equal to the great human rights defenders, people who gave their lives in the fight for peace, are feeling now. I remember that the entire world presented the organisation as an example of humanism and kindness. It would be fascinating to know what their supporters feel now when they hear the stories of people from liberated districts about members of the White Helmets who using weapons prohibited the real doctors from treating the wounded until the propaganda photos had been taken. We have repeatedly spoken of another inhumane activity of the White Helmets: the illegal black transplantation market, which bloomed for many years under their protection.

This activity is to be investigated. I believe that the facts which will be discovered and presented to the court and the public will shock everyone.

Several months ago now, nobody in the West even gave the working methods of the White Helmets a second thought. We remember it all too well how this summer during the liberation of the Syrian territory, members of the White Helmets with the active support of their sponsor’s diplomatic and financial aid hurried to evacuate themselves from the combat zone in southern Syria and went to Jordan.

It has been three months since these events, but the White Helmets still favour Jordan as a place to hang out. Naturally, they can move to the Netherlands, Germany or Great Britain, but for some reason their western patrons and creators, who initially promised their charges the chance to eventually land up in Europe in three weeks, as they said, have not yet fulfilled their promises . What is stopping them? No funding for tickets? Maybe it is hard to receive visas? Or is there something else?

Hundreds of activists and their families are living in a camp near Zarqa, isolated from the entire world. Their legal status has not been defined yet. All this makes you think that they are not needed in the West, in trouble-free countries. Maybe because their patrons saw the personal records of their charges that they have nourished and financed for so many years, and they have no desire to accept them in their countries.  It makes sense as it is one thing to commit crimes in Syria but it is something completely different to go to Europe after what has happened. In addition to this, being interviewed, the White Helmets might talk just a bit too much about their activities and spill the beans about their sponsors. They will need to survive and many (probably, from the point of view of those who are unwilling to give them shelter in Europe), not fully aware of the situation, can reveal what they did and whose money they used.

We will continue to monitor the situation and share with you new facts about the “humanitarian” activities of the White Helmets and other such groups together with all those remaining in Syria who keep getting in the way of the peaceful process of bringing back to normal the life of the civilians.