Disinfo: White Helmets hide abuse and extortion behind a humanitarian brand

Summary

“White Helmets” hides looting, extortion, robbery, willful misinformation, organised chemical attacks, airstrikes, artillery, and direct collusion with terrorism behind the appearance of a humanitarian brand. Western intelligence services support the White Helmets to launch a media war against Syria. White Helmets is a component of a media campaign to discredit the Syrian authorities, and in particular, blaming them for the provocation that gave the West a reason to accuse Damascus of using chemical weapons and hitting targets of government forces.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin narratives portraying the White Helmets as a Western-backed terrorist proxy and, implicitly, denying the responsibility of the Assad regime for chemical attacks perpetrated during the Syrian civil war. The "White Helmets" movement originated in Syria in 2012. Volunteers save people from the rubble after bombings, despite the danger of dying themselves as a result of repeated airstrikes. Activists have documented the use of chemical weapons in Syria, later confirmed by OPCW. Because of this, they have become the target of an extensive Russian disinformation campaign. Read previous disinformation claims alleging that evidence confirms chemical attacks in Syria were falsified by the White Helmets, and that the chemical attacks in Syria have been staged and filmed by the media of the Western countries.

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  • Reported in: Issue 208
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 23/07/2020
  • Language/target audience: Arabic
  • Country: Syria
  • Keywords: Centre Against Terrorism and Hybrid Threats, Terrorism financing, White Helmets, West, Chemical weapons/attack, Propaganda, Syrian War, Terrorism

Disclaimer

Cases in the EUvsDisinfo database focus on messages in the international information space that are identified as providing a partial, distorted, or false depiction of reality and spread key pro-Kremlin messages. This does not necessarily imply, however, that a given outlet is linked to the Kremlin or editorially pro-Kremlin, or that it has intentionally sought to disinform. EUvsDisinfo publications do not represent an official EU position, as the information and opinions expressed are based on media reporting and analysis of the East Stratcom Task Force.

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US sanctions against Ramzan Kadyrov are part of Washington’s Russophobic strategy

Sanctions imposed by the US Department of State against Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov are part of the anti-Russian course of Washington. They seem like an attempt to justify funding of the US foreign policy agency that pays for a whole mass of specialists who dig up Russophobic information.

Disproof

Recurrent pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative framing any attempt to call out the actions of Russian leaders - in this case, Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov - as unjustified and Russophobic. The designation against Kadyrov is due to his involvement in numerous gross violations of human rights dating back more than a decade, including torture, extrajudicial killings and other abuses against LGBTI persons, human rights defenders, members of the independent media and other citizens who ran afoul of Mr. Kadyrov. Persecution of dissidents and activists and LGBTI people by Kadyrov’s regime have been well documented by human rights organisations, think tanks, media and documentary filmmakers. See other examples of this disinformation narrative, such as claims about a supposed anti-Russian bias of international institutions - be it the OPCW, the World Anti-Doping Agency or the United Nations - which always falsely accuse Russia; the alleged Russophobia of the EU; the affirmation that it is NATO and not the Kremlin who is involved in the Donbas conflict; or denials that Russia had any role in the poisoning of Sergey Skripal or the downing of MH17, that it interfered in other countries’ elections or that it waged a disinformation campaign on COVID-19.

Russia has never interfered in electoral processes in any country

Russia has never interfered in electoral processes in any country in the world.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative denying Russian meddling in different elections in the world. Electoral interference by Russia has been extensively documented in numerous countries around the world. The independent research, media investigations and parliamentary inquiries point out to evidence linking Russian state actors with interference in various electoral processes, including the 2016 US presidental elections, Brexit vote, in the 2017 French Presidential elections, in the 2017 German Parliamentary elections etc. Extensive evidence confirms that Russia did meddle in the 2016 US presidential elections, specifically aiming to damage Hillary Clinton's campaign and aid Republican candidate Donald Trump. In the US, 126 millions of users were reached by Russia-linked users, 29 millions from them have seen the content "directly". Likewise, Russian state efforts to affect the outcome of the Brexit vote are well-documented, both in news reports and parliamentary enquiries (see especially pp. 43-52). Investigations were conducted as well as by journalists. Fore more information on Russia's interference in Western democratic processes, see the EUvsDisinfo Elections page. In France, Russian media outlets spread disinformation on Emmanuel Macron's support by "gay lobby" and "bank lobby". The e-mails of Emmanuel Macron's party top members and of him himself were hacked. It was perpetrated, according to the Mediapart, by the same GRU unit also responsible for hacking of Democrats' servers in the US. Russian State TV spoke about "an offshore account of Macron". It turned out to be a fabricated evidence. In Germany, after almost one-year investigation by the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) the intelligence report has stated that Russia has had a "more confrontational course" towards Germany since 2014 and calls the reporting of Russian media and its German offshoots such as RT Deutsch and Sputnik News hostile. In 2017 "the strategy that pro-Kremlin Russian actors adopted in the months leading to the elections was to attack Merkel and her government, advance the AfD and The Left, and avoid excessive bashing of the CDU/CSU and SPD.", Anton Shekhovtsov writes in his report to EPDE. Read more on the pro-Kremlin tactics here “‘Make Germany Great Again’. Kremlin, Alt-Right and International Influences in the 2017 German Elections“.   See similar cases claiming that The notion of “Russian influence” in the US is an absurd conspiracy theory, or that Claims about Russia’s interference into US elections are unfounded, Allegations of Russian meddling in US elections are absolutely insane, or No evidence of Russian interference in Brexit vote, The West falsely accuses Russia of election meddling.

Armenia has become a springboard for Anti-Russian forces in the Caucasus

Armenian Authorities have flooded the country with anti-Russian NGOs that are teaching young people on Armenian territory how to overthrow the government in Russia. Armenia has become a springboard for anti-Russian forces in the Caucasus.

You have purged from the country Russian businessmen of Armenian origin. You don’t want to have anything Russian. Because that is the internal affairs of Armenia. Your media and social networks constantly pour dirt on Russia and Putin and everyone, who supports Putin – especially Russian Armenians. You are dividing the Armenian people – already on the verge of extinction – between enemies; Russian Armenians and “Real” – those, who support who is in power for the moment. Because it is the internal affairs of Armenia.

And now, when the war is at your borders; when the very existence of your regime is threatened and Armenians all over the world see the spectres of Janissaries with curved knives coming alive – now you remember that Russia has the duty to save you again. Is that not the internal affair of Armenia?

Disproof

Pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative accusing Armenian Authorities of being Russophobic and Anti-Russian.

The claim about anti-Russian NGOs that are teaching young people "how to overthrow the government in Russia" is another recurring pro-Kremlin narrative presenting all activities of NGOs, media or civil society activists as measures to overthrow the power in post-Soviet states. Also, a conspiracy, according to which the US prepare in secrecy people of the former Soviet Republics to work for foreign forces. Russian propaganda refers to the events organised by the Prague civil society center in different countries. CampCamp is all about helping civil initiatives strengthen their bond with their local communities through the use of new technologies and creative solutions. For further debunk read here.