05:02 GMT15 April 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The White Helmets volunteer organization had close ties with Syrian extremists and was fueling the conflict in the country, Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Friday, adding that Moscow was not surprised by Canada's decision to accept the majority of the organization's activists evacuated from Syria.

    "We paid our attention to Canada's decision to shelter White Helmets activists … Let me remind you that… these people had close ties with extremists. There is no surprise that now they will be also hidden in Canada … It is well known that Ottawa along with other Western countries has been providing for a long time a moral support and direct funding to the organization … Meanwhile, those pseudo-humanitarian activists … tried to preserve the state of war in Syria as long as possible, and to incite new conflicts," Zakharova said at a press briefing.

    The statement was made after last week over 400 White Helmets' activists and their families were evacuated from Syria at the request of Canada, European countries, and the United States amid a full-scale offensive of Syrian government troops against terror groups in country’s southwestern regions. According to the CBC broadcaster, Canada was expected to take in 250 of the evacuated activists.

    READ MORE: Syrian Envoy to UN: Israel Helped to Evacuate Militants From Golan Heights

    The White Helmets volunteer organization claims that its activities aim to protect Syrian civilians. According to Syrian President Bashar Assad, the group is affiliated with the al-Qaeda terrorist organization*.

    READ MORE: US, Israel Want White Helmets Out of Syria to Prevent Exposure — Ex-CIA Officer

    Both Moscow and Damascus have accused the White Helmets of helping to stage a chemical attack in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma on April 7. That attack prompted the United States, the United Kingdom and France to launch more than 100 missiles on multiple targets in Syria one week later.

    *al-Qaeda — a terrorist organization, banned in numerous countries, including Russia

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