Briefing on Syria by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova

Update on Syria

The situation in Syria has largely stabilised. We continue to work to prevent surges in tension in the areas that are not controlled by the Syrian government, primarily northeastern Syria and Idlib.

The Russian-Turkish Memorandum of October 22 is being gradually implemented. The Kurdish forces have been withdrawn from the Syrian-Turkish border. Syrian government troops are being deployed in the liberated areas, and joint Russian-Turkish patrolling of the 10-kilometre border strip in the Kamyshly and Kobani areas has begun. These measures helped stop the bloodshed and suffering of the local people, Kurds and Arabs alike.

Despite the ceasefire introduced by the Syrian army with Russia’s support in Idlib on August 31, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham terrorists continue to shell government troop positions and nearby towns. Every day, 20 to 30 such attacks by the militants are recorded. There has been an increase in activity of the local residents in the de-escalation zone itself. They are protesting the terrorists’ stranglehold. In particular, demonstrations are being held in Saraqib, Beenish, Taftanaz, al-Kafrun and Maarat al-Numan. The terrorists are trying to stop these civic actions, disperse the crowds and put up aggressive resistance.

We note that isolated hotbeds of tension on the ground in Syria have not thwarted the successful and planned launch of the Constitutional Committee in Geneva. The first meeting of the committee with the presence of all 150 members took place in late October-early November. Then, the drafting commission with 45 representatives began its work, with 15 representatives from each third, that is, the government, the opposition and civil society. This commission is drafting proposals for the constitutional reform of Syria. The next session is scheduled for the last week of November. We consider the formation and convention of the Constitutional Committee the common achievement of all Syrians who finally have the opportunity to discuss the future of their country directly without intermediaries. Now, it is important to make sure that the committee members work in a calm and peaceful atmosphere without external interference, especially without pressure or the imposition of artificial formulas or deadlines.

In addition, it is necessary to support progress in the political process by stepping up the comprehensive humanitarian aid to Syria without discrimination or preliminary conditions. Such aid will help create a proper environment for the voluntary, safe and dignified return of the refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes. Notably, the process of repatriation of the Syrians has become sustainable with over 464,000 refugees and over 1.3 million IDPs returning to their homes since July 2018, when the corresponding Russian initiative was launched.

In the context of achieving a sustainable and lasting solution to the Syrian crisis, we attach great importance to normalising the situation in Syria and the country moving beyond artificial international isolation. In this respect, we will mention the various delegations’ regular visits to Damascus. Representatives of the Foreign Ministry of Kazakhstan visited the Syrian capital in early November and discussed prospects for developing bilateral economic, political and cultural cooperation with their Syrian colleagues, in particular, the possibility of resuming the work of the Kazakh cultural and historical centre in Damascus.

In addition, we noted the Council of the Union of Arab Chambers of Commerce decision to hold its 132nd session scheduled for 2020 in Damascus. We welcome the gradual restoration of Syria’s relations with the Arab world and we support the return of Damascus to the League of Arab States. We believe this will be beneficial for Arab unity and the strengthening of regional security and stability.

Question: At the *November 8 briefing (see below), you talked about fake news and the reasonable and shared suspicion concerning James Le Mesurier, who founded the May Day Rescue foundation. As soon as the Monday following the briefing, he fell from a window in his apartment, loaded with sedatives. Can it be that the US-led Western coalition wants to do everything to erase any stark facts and remove any witnesses as it withdraws from Syria, in order to prevent the international community from discovering these facts?

Maria Zakharova: I saw statements on this topic by President of Syria Bashar al-Assad in today’s newswires. He is well placed to know and understand the situation on the ground. This has to do with the question of how people tend to respond to the news.

Everything that is going on right now in the British press is the main and best evidence that the representatives of Western intelligence agencies have a tight grip on these developments, the White Helmets and many other similar stories. I am saying this because everything that appeared instantly in the British press bears all the signs of Western intelligence agencies spreading the corresponding messages that are picked up, for some reason, by the British press. Let me assure you that we looked very carefully into this matter.

Let me draw your attention to a very interesting fact. All the materials are virtually carbon copies, which means that someone provided the core message, a very clear and one-sided one, and pushed it into the British media. For some reason, the British media failed to notice anything besides our November 8 briefing, and did not bother to type in the Russian Foreign Ministry with the name of their former or not former (that remains to be seen) agent (this at least is a fact) into any search engine, and see how many times the Foreign Ministry mentioned the White Helmets and the forces behind them. How come no journalist from even a single British media outlet bothered to spend five or ten minutes on searching for some information or at least checking the facts? The reason is simple. They were not the ones who wrote the reports. Somebody prepared the messages spread by these media outlets in advance. There is so much dirt in everything that has to do with the White Helmets, constantly involving Western and regional intelligence agencies cosying up to terrorist or radical groups. We have pointed to this horrible mix on numerous occasions.

You probably know how many times I have talked about the White Helmets from this podium. You are also probably aware how many times Russian representatives spoke about the White Helmets at the United Nations, including the Security Council and other UN structures. You also know how many times Russia made the corresponding accusations at the UN Office in Geneva, and how many times experts from various agencies and NGOs went to The Hague to talk about the White Helmets. How come the British media have not honoured us with even a single publication on this topic, considering that for several years now the Russian Foreign Ministry has been highlighting the clear bond and connection between the White Helmets, the intelligence agencies and terrorist organisations? The reason is that they were not asked to do so. And now they got this request. This is what propaganda is all about. But this is a horrible type of propaganda. It goes beyond promoting political views or philosophy and serves to cover up multiple crimes.

As for the British media’s professionalism, we remember all too well the events at the OPCW headquarters in The Hague that were attended by the actual participants in the incidents staged by the White Helmets. These people were ready to answer any question right away and to give any interviews, be it as a group or individually. This did not stir up anyone, least of all the British and US media. They did not attend these events, refrained from reporting on them and when they did, they did it in a way that made it virtually impossible to understand what the original source actually meant. These actions and publications are direct evidence of the dirt and permissiveness in the relations between Western countries, their affiliated would-be humanitarian NGOs and radicals in the region. In this case the media, primarily the UK media, serve as the mouthpieces of these undertakings by covering up these dirty tricks. This invariably requires a comprehensive approach. We remember a number of cases when both the UK officials and the local media spoke in a single voice.

Let me give you another spectacular example. Chief of the Defence Staff of the British Armed Forces Nick Carter has recently published an article in The Telegraph titled “Reckless Russia could accidentally trigger a third world war.” He also took the liberty to make these claims in a televised interview with the BBC. This is all part of just another planned campaign. I recognise that we have spoken at length about how today’s reality is similar to the Cold War, but as strange as this may sound I think we have never mentioned the Forrestal Syndrome.

This notion took shape in the West after former US Secretary of Defence died under strange circumstances. He fell from a window in a naval medical centre in Maryland. You may ask how he got there? He was not wounded on the battlefield when fighting the Russians (it was in the late 1940s), or taking part in military drills. He was mentally ill. This is an established fact. He was psychotic and he was treated for this condition. He would shout and keep repeating the same sentence over and over: “The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming. They’re right around. I’ve seen Russian soldiers.” It was this insanity that brought the former Defence Secretary to a mental hospital. Today, healthy people are being infected with this syndrome. The publications in the British press are designed to give the Forrestal Syndrome to healthy, normal people. This is obvious.

This case has been studied extensively in literature, and I believe it to be highly relevant. The article by Chief of the Defence Staff of the British Armed Forces Nick Carter was written along the same lines. This is the same Forrestal Syndrome all over again. The only difference is that it is imposed on all of us. We are being forced to believe that Russian soldiers are all around us, as James Forrestal used to say. They are everywhere, and they are coming. The idea of the Russian threat can be expressed in different ways, and has multiple iterations, providing a convenient and effective pretext to the Anglo-Saxon military lobby in a number of areas, such as justifying dubious foreign policy initiatives, or building various coalitions around the notion of having to counter the Russians who are everywhere and “are coming.” The same applies to increasing defence spending that has to be justified at a time when everyone is focused on the environment, demography, migration, etc. We have to remember what has already been studied by historians. I encourage you to read articles about James Forrestal. I’m sure you will enjoy them. I have read quite a few of these articles lately, and found all of them to my liking.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation


Note: Excerpt from the November 8th Briefing:

The quasi-humanitarian organisation White Helmets

There is yet another issue to which I continuously return. I noted the statement by Andrew Morrison, Secretary of State for Middle East Affairs at the British Foreign Office. He claimed that the NGO Syria Civil Defence (better known as the White Helmets) has become a target of disinformation by the Syrian and Russian authorities. A Foreign Office communique notes that he made this statement at the meeting with Chairman of the White Helmets Raed al-Saleh, at which they discussed the situation in Syria’s Idlib.

“White Helmet volunteers continue to be subjected to a massive disinformation campaign by the Syrian regime and the Russian government. These deceitful tactics are a brazen attempt to divert attention from the barrage of appalling attacks against the Syrian people, which has included the use of chemical weapons,” Morrison said.

He also reiterated “the UK’s unwavering support” for the White Helmets.

Probably, I would not have brought up the subject of the White Helmets today, as we have already discussed this in detail on numerous occasions, had it not been for this “wonderful” communique addressed to Russia by the UK authorities. But since it was published, we will certainly comment on it.

At a recent briefing we said that the United States sent yet another tranche to the White Helmets. These people who call themselves “humanitarians” received $4.5 million. Let’s see who stands at the foundation of this structure. I will rely on materials from experts that I can access free online. They will probably be refuted but nobody has done this so far.

Owing to investigations, primarily by foreign journalists, it is credibly known that one of the founders of the White Helmets is James Le Mesurier, a former officer of British Secret Intelligence Service MI6. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so. He has been spotted in many conflicts all over the world, including the Balkans and the Middle East. Considering the role the West played in undermining stability in these areas, it is not difficult to assume what this UK intelligence officer was doing there.

Moreover, a number of researchers (I’m referring to foreign rather than Russian analysts) point to his links with terrorist organisations during his work in Kosovo. According to some sources, al-Qaeda members were part of his team. We would like to hear how London explains these facts. Morrison also founded NGO “Mayday Rescue” that is sponsored by Germany, Denmark, Canada, Qatar, the Netherlands and the United States. Officially, its mission is “to save lives and strengthen communities, thereby building resilience to the effects of conflict and natural disaster.” In reality, it took part in the training and funding of the White Helmets and is now providing information and propaganda support for their activities in the Western media.

Apart from participation in the Syrian conflict, Mayday Rescue carried out projects in Somalia and Lebanon (I just talked about Lebanon and what is happening there) where they supported local anti-government forces under the guise of creating a network of rescue volunteers. The White Helmets have been used in a number of Latin American countries as locals for massive information aggression against the lawful authorities.

These attempts failed, but there is no guarantee that this will not be repeated somewhere else. In effect, the White Helmets tested in Syria became a Western tool in promoting “colour revolutions,” destabilizing situations and creating artificial conflicts in “objectionable” states.

Russia has repeatedly said that the White Helmets are provocateurs and accomplices of the most dangerous terrorist groups. Examples have been quoted and accusations made both by the official authorities in Russia and civil society in the West and in this country. Convincing facts have been cited that nobody denied them. There were just words that have become typical and popular: “This is not the case, don’t believe them.” This is despite reports, presentations, films, video footage and photos that were shown to the international community in this context.

We believe that the White Helmets are opposing the counterterrorism efforts of the Syrian government and supporting countries. It is the White Helmets that have produced and performed many cynical fabrications that were not limited to information but were action-oriented and looked real. Their goal was to create a pretext for the disinformation of a broad international audience, hinder the further stabilisation of the situation in Syria and stand in the way of carrying out priority humanitarian projects.

I believe the history of this organisation and the sources of its funding as well as the relevant mechanisms that assist it, explains the support it receives from the UK Foreign Office, which I mentioned earlier in commenting on this issue.”