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“White Helmets are Al Qaeda members and that's proven,” Assad told RT during an interview with Russian journalists in Damascus. “The same members are killing or executing or celebrating over dead bodies, at the same time they are humanitarian heroes, and now they have an Oscar.”
The White Helmets, which calls itself a civil defense organization, operates in rebel-controlled parts of Syria, where they say they are involved exclusively in peaceful activities such as rescuing civilians after bombing raids. They are part-funded by donations, and by Western governments.
An eponymous British-made film about their work was given an Oscar for Best Documentary at last month’s Academy Awards.
Both Damascus and Moscow have repeatedly accused them of functioning as a propaganda operation that stages videos and manipulates coverage to generate sympathy abroad for the rebel cause, and as a jihadist rescue service that operates in tandem with Al Nusra and other radical groups in Syria.