Foreign Ministry briefing: Syria, Deir ez-Zor, the White Helmets, and what democratization means to the West

If our Western colleagues continue to talk about the democratisation of the Middle East and North Africa, knowing that they cannot retrace their steps, maybe we should choose a simpler solution, that is, change the definition of democratisation?

Maybe we should write an article for Wikipedia saying that democratisation as understood in the West amounts to total destruction of states, and provide the numerous examples? 

From the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation
April 27, 2017
Spokesperson Maria Zakharova


The situation in Syria

The situation in Syria is still a focus of our attention. We anxiously monitor reports about the situation in Syria. Unfortunately, there is still plenty of cause for concern.

On April 25, it was reported that Turkish jets carried out a series of strikes on the positions of Kurdish self-defence detachments near Mount Karachok in northeastern Syria and near Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq. I would like to remind you that Kurdish detachments are the most effective fighting force in the war against ISIS terrorists in northeastern Syria. We were greatly disturbed by reports of Ankara’s operations. There is reason to believe that if it was not for the hasty US attack on Syria’s Shayrat Airbase, which was outside the bounds of international law, Turkey would not have carried out the recent strikes. It is necessary to put an end to arbitrariness on Syrian soil. We urge all international and regional partners to respect the sovereignty and independence of Syria and Iraq, as well as of other countries.

I would like to draw your attention to another issue. The targets that the Turkish Air Force hit in Syria included media facilities: a local TV and radio broadcasting station. Reports say some of your colleagues from the media centre of Kurdish self-defence forces were killed, among others. I would like to see the reaction of the relevant organisations and the journalistic community.

Syria’s government forces are successfully advancing on the positions of ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists. The offensive in the north of Hama Province is moving forward. Despite the fierce resistance put up by Nusra and its allies, the large towns of Halfaya and Taybat al-Imam have been liberated. At present, the army is exploiting its strategic success, advancing toward the border of Hama and Idlib Provinces.

On April 19 and 21, Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft destroyed Jabhat al-Nusra’s large training camps in Idlib Province. The strikes were carried out with coordinates received from the so-called competing group, Jaysh al-Izzah.

The dynamic of events in Syria underscores the pressing need for an international meeting on Syria in Astana. The next meeting is scheduled for May 3-4. We hope that the Astana process will help record positive trends in the development of the situation in Syria, prevent the deterioration of the military-political situation and help the Syrian parties in search of compromise solutions, which would put an end to the protracted intra-Syrian confrontation and prevent terrorists from gaining full control of Syria and the entire Middle East region.


The humanitarian situation in Deir ez-Zor

Improving the humanitarian situation in Syria and providing aid to those in need is one of Russia’s priorities in Syria.

We have often talked about the Russian military’s contribution to achieving this goal. They deliver food, water and basic necessities to the Syrian people, often at the risk of their lives.

The situation in Deir ez-Zor, where about 200,000 people have been under ISIS siege for over three years now, is also the focus of our attention. Russian airplanes regularly deliver humanitarian aid to the besieged people by using parachute platforms, including aid that the Syrian authorities receive from the UN. The most recent aid delivery – 21tonnes of food – was made on April 24-25.

According to the UN, more than a half of Syria’s population – 13.5 million people, including 6.5 million children – need humanitarian aid; 11.5 million people need medical care and 12.1 million have no access to drinking water.

Russia is doing its utmost to ease the suffering of the Syrian people regardless of their ethnic or religious background, political sympathies or antipathies. We call on our Western colleagues to do the same, depoliticise the humanitarian aid issue in Syria, and focus on the interests of those in need. People need bread, water and fuel to keep their homes warm; they need basic aid to survive. Alas, our Western partners, who tend to worry over non-issues, prefer to impose new sanctions, which only make the situation worse.

The White Helmets

I would like to draw your attention to new facts exposing the activity of the White Helmets, a notorious organisation that is discrediting itself. This entire activity can be described as pseudo-humane or pseudo-humanitarian. There is evidence that some actions taken by members of this organisation not only prevent it from claiming the status of a humanitarian NGO or “saviours of the Syrian people,” but can be put in the same category as extremism and war crimes.

The real Syria Civil Defence organisation was established in 1953 and registered at the International Civil Defence Organisation (ICDO). Contrary to Western media reports, the White Helmets have nothing in common with Syria’s national emergency response system or the organisation of relief and rescue operations in case of accidents or disasters. As militants moved into Aleppo, they seized ambulances, firefighting trucks and other gear and equipment, while the majority of civil defence officers were shot.

The White Helmets not only feel at home on Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS-controlled territories but openly sympathise with them and provide them with information and even financial support. How is that for double standards? There is documentary evidence of the White Helmets’ involvement in some of al-Nusra’s operations and cover-up over civilian deaths. A case in point is a video presumably made in March 2015 that shows the White Helmets mingling with terrorists and beating a defenceless man captured by al-Nusra. In a video dated May 2015, they carry out a kind of a clean-up operation at the site of civilian executions in northern Aleppo. There is footage of torture of Syrian soldiers with their subsequent execution in the presence of the White Helmets.

The biased Western media outlets absolutely ignore the facts that expose the White Helmets’ propaganda and are silent about the falsification of casualty figures in Syria and the fabrication of acts of violence or the use of dangerous kinds of weapons. Eyewitnesses talk about looting, juggling facts and faking the provision of medical aid by members of this “humanitarian” NGO.

The White Helmets often come forward as the only witnesses to the destruction of civilian facilities and casualties as a result of alleged operations by the Russian Aerospace Forces or the Syrian Air Force. On the internet, people tired of propaganda do frame-by-frame analysis of their fake videos of civilian relief operations and discover footage with the participation of professional makeup artists. I believe you have seen them.

The White Helmets’ actions in Syria’s Khan Shaykhun on April 4 merit special mention. Their purportedly “incontrovertible” evidence gave the Americans a pretext for carrying out an act of armed aggression against Syria’s Air Force Shayrat airbase on April 7. Representatives of the Swedish Doctors for Human Rights, an NGO, analysed the video footage and came to the conclusion that the saving of children shown there was in fact a dangerous manipulation of children’s bodies pumped with narcotics.

Importantly, funds controlled by some Western governments or business circles close to them are directly involved in financing the White Helmets. He who pays the piper calls the tune, especially since this music fully corresponds to the official position of Western countries regarding regime change in Syria – as we clearly realise, the only purpose of their presence there.

Criticism of the Swedish Doctors for Human Rights NGO

We have taken note of the criticism and open pressure put on the NGO, Swedish Doctors for Human Rights, after it questioned the allegation by the United States and several other countries that it was the Syrian Army that was responsible for the April 4 chemical attack in Idlib.

It has become a kind of tradition to attack and persecute independent NGOs for their alternative views. These NGOs are branded Kremlin agents and accused of attempts to discredit or undermine trust in the West’s version of events. At the same time, the Western capitals give a pat on the back to all kinds of pseudo-experts and pseudo-NGOs, such as the White Helmets, for promoting allegations and accusations against the Syrian Government. They also pretend not to see the shameless falsifications practiced by these NGOs.

The situation with Swedish Doctors for Human Rights is fresh evidence of the Western practice of double standards regarding freedom of speech: it appears that the only information that can be made public is that which strictly corresponds to the policies of Washington and Brussels.

Dutch war correspondent Arnold Karskens on refugees

We have provided our views more than once on the tragedy that is underway in the Middle East and North Africa because of the short-sighted democratisation policies of our Western colleagues. If our Western colleagues continue to talk about the democratisation of the Middle East and North Africa, knowing that they cannot retrace their steps, maybe we should choose a simpler solution, that is, change the definition of democratisation? Maybe we should write an article for Wikipedia saying that democratisation as understood in the West amounts to total destruction of states, and provide the numerous examples?

We have also noticed that the opinions of many Western experts who take an objective view on the situation in the region, its causes and their consequences, increasingly often coincide with our conclusions.

Independent Dutch war correspondent Arnold Karskens has written that Western politicians are guilty of the death of Mali refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe. Speaking on behalf of the families of the drowned Mali refugees, Karskens has filed charges of manslaughter, and aiding and abetting human trafficking against the European Union. He has named First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans as the defendant in the case. According to Arnold Karskens, over 12,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean since 2015 because of the failure of European refugee policies.

We fear that this journalist is unlikely to win the case in a Dutch court, but we hope that at least this case will draw public attention to the tragedy of this modern exodus and its causes and consequences. At the same time, we hope that Dutch law enforcement agencies will have the good sense not to accuse this journalist of being a Russian propagandist in the West. But then, who knows?

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