Disinfo: White Helmets was created by Western security bodies and has connections with terrorists

Summary

White Helmets was set up in 2013 by a former UK’s army officer James Le Mesurier. In fact it was created by Western countries’ security bodies. The organization received Western financial assistance and declared protection of peaceful population in the military action zones as its aim, but is blamed by the Syrian authorities in connections with extremists and hostile propaganda. It is said that some public videos capture Al-Qaeda members who beheaded people and ate killed soldier’s heart as White Helmets participants and the organization is a wing of Al-Nusra terrorist group. Russian MFA called White Helmets’ activities us an element of information campaign to discredit Syrian authorities. Russia also blamed White Helmets for the provocation which gave the West a reason to accuse Damask for using chemical weapons and to attack the governmental military forces. Russian side also stated that James Le Mesurier was a MI6 officer who was seen in many conflicts around the world, including in Kosovo and the Near East.

Disproof

This publication is an illustrative example of many disinformation and propagandistic claims about the White Helmets. Pro-Kremlin media routinely accuse the White Helmets of “working for terrorists” and giving biased information to the Western media. No evidence is given to support these claims. The "White Helmets" movement originated in Syria in 2012. The organisation - which is made up of 3,400 volunteers including teachers, engineers, tailors and firefighters - states that it has no affiliation to any political or military actor and is committed to render services to anyone in need. Volunteers save people from the rubble after bombings, despite the danger of dying themselves as a result of repeated air strikes. White Helmets activists have documented the use of chemical weapons in Syria, later confirmed by The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Thus, OPCW said it found reasonable grounds to believe that chlorine was used as a weapon in the Douma district of Eastern Ghouta, Syria in April 2018. Because of its activities, the organization has become the target of an extensive Russian disinformation campaign. . Read previous disinformation claims alleging that France, UK, and the US support terrorists in Syria, 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.

publication/media

  • Reported in: Issue 173
  • DATE OF PUBLICATION: 11/11/2019
  • Outlet language(s) Russian
  • Countries and/or Regions discussed in the disinformation: Kosovo, UK, Syria, Russia
  • Keywords: West, White Helmets, MI6, Conspiracy theory, Terrorism
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Ukraine has no development strategy for Donbas

There is no development strategy for Donbas in Ukraine except to take billions from Russia. In Ukraine, even next year’s budget does not include funds for the Donbas. They are not going to reintegrate with anyone.

Disproof

A recurring disinformation narrative that it's impossible to reconnect Donbas with Ukraine, and there is no willingness to do it. On the contrary, the Donbas reintegration strategy is being developed at the state level. Between 2015-2019 it was the State Agency of Ukraine on the rehabilitation of the Donbas. The new government in Ukraine is planning to develop the Donbas reintegration plan by 2020. On 30 October 2019, in Mariupol, the Donetsk region, there was a "Unity Forum" with the President of Ukraine, government and NGOs. The main theme is the return of Donbas. The purpose of the forum is to establish a dialogue between the public and the authorities in order to overcome the challenges arising from the conflict in Donbas and its consequences. As a result of the event, participants plan to develop a roadmap for change to implement the strategy in the areas prescribed. At the same time, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine includes the reintegration of the occupied territories of Donbas to the state budget and the macroeconomic forecast as well. See previous debunks on "civil war in Ukraine".

There is a civil war in Donbas after the region rebelled against the illegal government in Kyiv

The civil war in Ukraine began in April 2014 after a coup which happened in the country. Donetsk and Luhansk did not want to obey the government that illegally came to power and declared independence. In response, Kyiv launched the so-called anti-terrorist operation against the republics of Donbas.

Disproof

Recurring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about Euromaidan and war in Ukraine. It disregards the extensive factual evidence confirming ongoing Russian military presence in Donbas. There have been many investigations proving Russia's involvement in the war in east Ukraine. There was no coup d'état in Ukraine. The spontaneous onset of the Euromaidan protests was an organic reaction by numerous parts of the Ukrainian population to former President Yanukovych’s sudden departure from the promised Association Agreement with the European Union in November 2013. See the full debunk of this disinformation claim. The war in eastern Ukraine is not a civil conflict, but an act of aggression by the Russian armed forces, that continues since February 2014. The European Union stated in July 2014 that "arms and fighters continue flowing into Ukraine from the Russian Federation". At the NATO Summit in Wales in September 2014 and at successive summits since then, allied leaders also demanded that Russia refrain from aggressive actions against Ukraine and stop fomenting tension along and across the Ukrainian border. According to the US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Russian special forces and troops operated to mobilise, lead, equip, and support separatist militias in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine from spring 2014 to the present, although their presence was denied by Moscow. See further the claim that Russia is not a part of the conflict in Ukraine.

Evidence shows chemical attacks in Syria were falsified by the White Helmets

In India, a Russian expert presented evidence of the falsification of the chemical attacks in Syria. It is noted that the representatives of India paid due attention to information about the involvement of the White Helmets in the staging [of the chemical attacks]. They operate in the territories not controlled by Damascus.

Disproof

This is a recurring and enduring pro-Kremlin disinformation narrative about the White Helmets. The "White Helmets" movement originated in Syria in 2012, when the first detachments of volunteer rescuers appeared in the territories outside the control of Bashar al-Assad's troops. In 2014, volunteer teams merged into a national organisation, the Syrian Civil Defence, which is the official name of the 'White Helmets'. Volunteers save people from the rubble after bombings, despite the danger to themselves as a result of repeated air strikes. Activists from this organisation have documented the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Assad government and allied forces. Because of this, they have become the target of an extensive Russian disinformation campaign. Read previous disinformation claims alleging that France, UK, and the US support terrorists in Syria and that the chemical attacks in Syria have been staged and filmed by the media of the Western countries.