During a weekily press briefing on August 15, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova commented on reports on the involvement of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in evacuating from Syria a group of the White Helmets.
Zakharova criticized the UNHC for the support provided to the organization, which “under the pretence of working for a humanitarian organisation, actually served as a tool in the information and propaganda warfare waged by a number of countries in Syria”.
FULL STATEMENT (source):
The Foreign Ministry took note of media reports on the involvement of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in evacuating from Syria a large group of the infamous White Helmets, who under the pretence of working for a humanitarian organisation, actually served as a tool in the information and propaganda warfare waged by a number of countries in Syria, including by relying on illegal armed groups and would-be humanitarian organisations.
It is unfortunate that the UNHCR confirmed its involvement on its official website.
By doing so, the UN body supported the false narrative on these While Helmets promoted by the Western media and officials, misrepresenting them as genuine and fearless humanitarian workers.
But how come these fearless humanitarian workers need to be evacuated from Syria? Why can’t the White Helmets stay there as peace returns to cities and communities? How come the White Helmets are not there to distribute bread rations or to restore medical aid stations and civilian infrastructure? Have they thought about Syrian children who have to go to school, and what are civilians supposed to do? What happened to their commitment to the humanitarian cause? As a matter of fact, it never existed to begin with. All the White Helmets did was contribute to fake stories, in exchange for huge sums of money, on the alleged chemical weapons attacks, and helped spread this propaganda online. They alleged that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own people. That is all there is to it. That is what all these would-be humanitarian efforts were all about.
Considering that the UNHCR is a high-profile and respected international institution, we would like to draw the attention of its representatives that they need to show a greater sense of responsibility in their actions and avoid steps that could not only hurt the reputation of this international organisation, but most importantly affect UN’s role in addressing major humanitarian tasks, including in Syria.
We would like to reiterate that the White Helmets are experts at provocation and disinformation who spread fake information under the guise of humanitarian work. In fact, they have colluded with the most dangerous terrorist groups with a mission to malign and undermine counter-terrorist efforts undertaken by the Syrian government with Russia’s assistance.
The White Helmets were behind a series of cynical fake stories that were concocted to prevent stabilisation in Syria and consequently making it impossible to address humanitarian needs, including assisting refugees.
Having the UNHCR provide any kind of assistance to the provocative undertakings of the White Helmets is a grave mistake, at best.
We call on the Office to act in strict compliance with its mandate, avoid any political bias and abide by the humanitarian principles of neutrality, independence, humaneness and impartiality in their work, as well as focus on maximising international efforts to facilitate the voluntary return of Syrian refugees, which is currently the main objective. It is interesting that international agencies and the international community are working on the evacuation of the White Helmets at a time when life is returning to normal in Syria. But when it comes to helping civilians and refugees who want to return to Syria, many are those who take a step back or say that it would be unsafe. What an interesting story. When civilians were in Syria and multiple regional and Western powers sponsored fighters, they were not in danger, but now having people voluntarily return to their homeland is viewed as being unsafe. This is absurd, but facts speak for themselves.