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Russian diplomat grills US State Department on White Helmets abrupt aid cutoff

May 04, 16:55 UTC+3 MOSCOW

CBS News said earlier that the US Department of State had frozen funding for the White Helmets

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© Sergey Savostianov/TASS

MOSCOW, May 4. /TASS/. Moscow would like to know the reasons for Washington’s decision to freeze funding for the White Helmets volunteer group, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a briefing on Friday.

"Fantastic news came today - the US Department of State has frozen funding for the White Helmets non-governmental organization active in Syria," she said. "What's wrong? Didn’t they like the last film? Maybe, there are some other reasons?" Zakharova added.

"In fact, we would like to know exactly how much money the White Helmets had received from the US government and governments of other countries, including the three states [the US, Great Britain and France - TASS] that carried out air strikes on Syria [on April 14]," the Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman said, adding that this issue was of particular importance as it could help understand "how this mechanism for producing false information operates."

Besides, in Zakharova’s words, "we do not know what the reason behind the funding freeze is, and whether the decision is final or if it’s funding would be resumed."

"This is a matter worth looking into, particularly by journalists, and I believe it is crucial," the diplomat concluded.

CBS News said on Thursday that the US Department of State had frozen funding for the White Helmets. According to CBS News, the United States "accounted for about a third of the group's overall funding" but now the White Helmets "are not getting any US funding as the State Department says the support is ‘under active review’."

The White Helmets have many times made allegations that the Syrian air force targets civilian-populated areas. Besides, the group was among those spreading information about a chemical weapons attack that had allegedly taken place in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7. The Russian Foreign Ministry slammed this allegation as a bogus story, while Russia’s Defense Ministry pointed out that the White Helmets were known for spreading fabricated news. On April 9, officers from the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the opposing sides in Syria visited Douma but did not find any traces of chemical weapons.

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