Canada collides head to head with Russia on White Helmets

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Chrystia Freeland in Ukraine in December 2017 (Vlad Musiienko/Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine)

Following a Russian rhetoric on the Syrian rebel rescuers

Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, accused Russia of telling lies about White Helmets in Syria during her media teleconference on August 4, 2018, in response to Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ critique of the group’s recent emergency evacuation.

According to the information released by La Presse Canadienne, Chrystia Freeland assumed that Russia’s negative stand on the Syrian grassroots rescue organization is connected with proofs of crimes against humanity conducted by Assad’s regime and their Russian allies, revealed by White Helmets. She calls Russian official reaction “propaganda” against “such heroic people” doing “a very important job.” Previously, on July 24, 2018, the Canadian Foreign Minister stated that Canada felt “a strong moral responsibility to the White Helmets who are still in Syria.”

“We continue to be looking at the situation; to be talking with the White Helmets and to be talking with our allies about what we might be able to do.”

On July 23, 2018, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a comment on their official website, blaming these Syrian volunteers of being “pseudo-humanitarians” and charging them with “the most odious provocations during the Syrian conflict.” The major alleged accusation made by Russia toward this rescue group was staging and shooting propaganda videos, condemning the existing Syrian regime for chemical attacks, etc. Later, on August 3, 2018, reacting upon Canada’s plans to accept about 250 evacuated White Helmets activists with their families, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova equated this organization to the Canadian government “with respect to groundless accusations against the Syrian authorities as well as blaming Russia.”

On July 22, 2018, 422 White Helmet volunteers with their families were evacuated from southwest Syria as a result of a joint international operation prepared and conducted by the U.K., Germany, Canada, Israel, Jordan and the United States. As it was agreed with Jordan, the rescued Syrians would stay in the country for three months until resettled by Canada, Germany and the U.K. The rest of the Syrian group still operates in rebel-controlled territories.

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