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White Helmets, Nusra Front Preparing Provocations with Chemical Weapons in Idlib - Russian MoD

© Sputnik / Morad SaeedWhite Helmets uniform found during the search of terrorists’ headquarters in Eastern Ghouta.
White Helmets uniform found during the search of terrorists’ headquarters in Eastern Ghouta. - Sputnik International
Militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham* [formerly known as the Nusra Front] are planning, jointly with the White Helmets organization, to make a provocation with the staging of airstrikes and usage of chemical weapons in Syria's northwestern Idlib de-escalation zone, Russia's Defence Ministry said on Tuesday.

"Several sources have confirmed the information — militants from the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham [terrorist] group ... together with the White Helmets organization are planning on attacking settlements in the Idlib de-escalation zone in order to stage incidents of airstrikes with the use of chemical weapons," the ministry said.

It added that residents of the Sarmada settlement had seen militants arriving at the town in early November in three trucks that were loaded with containers with chemicals as well as professional video-making equipment and pieces of Russian artillery.

The ministry added that the militants had been recruiting people to participate in the staging of the attack.

"It is being planned to make fake videos of destruction caused by airstrikes and artillery shooting at civil targets and the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Idlib province. [The videos] will be published on social media and used to blame the Syrian government and Russia over their alleged actions against civilians," the ministry said.

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented on the issue after the meeting with his Icelandic counterpart Thordarson:

"With regard to reports of impending provocations in Idlib. We receive these messages regularly. In most cases, this information is confirmed. We, together with the Syrian government, are making this public, and this is exactly why these provocations have not yet been implemented, but we know that they are being prepared. We also know that provocateurs from the so-called White Helmets, created and led by British special services with the support of a number of Western countries, including the United States, are taking part in the preparations. I think the situation that has been developing with the White Helmets' participation in many staged scenes, including in April 2018 in Eastern Duma, is extremely clear for everyone," Lavrov said. 

The White Helmets is a UK-registered NGO. The group enjoys wide publicity and endorsement in the West but has been accused by Damascus of extremism and spreading propaganda.

Russia considers the group's activity an element of an informational campaign aimed at the vilification of the Syrian government. In particular, Moscow accused the White Helmets of staging a false-flag provocation in Syria in 2013 that later gave grounds for the West to accuse Damascus of chemical attacks.

*Al-Nusra Front is a terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.

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