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Militants, White Helmets staging chemical provocations in Syria — Russian Defense Ministry

The provocations are being plotted in Idlib de-escalation zone, according to the ministry

MOSCOW, November 26. /TASS/. The Russian Defense Ministry said it had information indicating that militants of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (another name of the Jabhat al-Nusra extremist group outlawed in Russia) together with White Helmets have been plotting provocations involving staged use of chemical weapons in the Idlib de-escalation zone in Syria.

"Via several channels, we received confirmation of reports that militants from the group of field commander Abu Malek, which is a part of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, jointly with the White Helmets organization, plan to carry out provocations involving staged air raids and use of chemical weapons in populated areas of the Idlib de-escalation zone," the ministry’s press service said in a statement.

"Militants have been selecting local residents who would participate in the filming of scenes depicting the consequences of airstrikes and use of poisonous agents," the statement reads.

Among other sources, the Defense Ministry cites information obtained from the town of Sarmada some 30 km northeast of Idlib. According to them, a group of unidentified people and three trucks transporting various containers with unknown chemicals arrived there in early November.

"One of the vehicles carried professional video equipment and fragments of air and artillery shells with Soviet and Russian identification marks," the press service said.

According to the Defense Ministry’s information, falsified footage of civilian facilities allegedly destroyed in airstrikes and artillery shelling, as well as of the use of chemical weapons in the Idlib governorate, "is planned to be released via social networks and presented as evidence of crimes committed by the Syrian government and of Russian Aerospace Forces’ actions directed against civilians."

In early November, the Russian Foreign Ministry reported that White Helmets together with terrorists have been preparing to stage new provocations with the use of chemical weapons in Syria. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, provocations with the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s Idlib "may happen any time."