"Russia completely supports the participation of civil society representatives in the sessions of the OPCW's highest body. It is imperative. It is exceptionally important that the opinion of those NGOs which promote constructive and effective work of the OPCW sounds within these walls. But there are other NGOs which not only do not help but even harm our organization and introduce unjustified politicization in its predominantly technical activities," Shulgin said.
The five-day OPCW Conference of the States Parties started on Monday at the organization's headquarters in The Hague. The Irish envoy, on behalf of several countries, has already expressed regret over certain non-governmental organizations being banned from participating.
According to the Russian envoy, "there are structures which disseminate blatant lies and unsubstantiated accusations against certain member states," claiming that such actions were politically and financially motivated.
"To allow unlimited participation of any NGO in our organization's sessions without considering the opinions of members is to allow excessively odious structures to get in among wider civil society ranks. For example, the pseudo-humanitarian organization 'Syria Civil Defense,' referred to as 'White Helmets.' They embarrassed themselves by straightforward manipulations and links to terrorist groupings in the Middle East," the Russian diplomat continued.
Shulgin emphasized the procedural requirement under OPCW principles that attendance be granted only to those NGOs whose activities are relevant to the topic and goal of the conference.
"We stand by the necessity to observe this principle and ban from the OPCW those who have no interest in promoting the goals and tasks of the chemical convention and come instead to abuse this platform for other purposes," the Russian envoy added.
The Syrian envoy to the organization, in turn, called for respecting the OPCW's adherence to transparency and pointed out that a total of 87 NGOs participate in the session.
"We know that several [NGOs] hinder the OPCW's work by disseminating lies and voicing unsubstantiated accusations, and it does not serve our goals," Bassam Sabbah said.
The White Helmets is a UK-registered NGO. They describe themselves as former bakers, tailors, engineers, pharmacists, painters, carpenters, students and workers of other professions who volunteer to go to the "most dangerous place on earth" and protect local civilians from violence. The group enjoys wide publicity and endorsement in the West but has been accused by Damascus of extremism and spreading propaganda.
Russia considers the group's activity an element of an informational campaign aimed at the vilification of the Syrian government. In particular, Moscow accused the White Helmets of staging a false-flag provocation in Syria in 2013 that later gave grounds for the West to accuse Damascus of chemical attacks.