Ukraine: Another Ghouta for the White Helmets

Recently an investigator from the infamous agency Bellingcat Christo Grozev has spoken about the intention of the Russian Armed Forces to achieve a symbolic victory in Ukraine ahead of 9th may (Victory day in Russia) to cater to the wishes of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. He added that the Russian army is willing to go to great lengths to achieve this, even use terrorist tactics and banned munitions, including chemical weapons.

Coming from Grozev, a person who directly participated in the investigation of the controversy around the 2018 chemical attack in Ghouta, Syria, this is an explicit sign of escalation of the Ukrainian conflict. In Ghouta, Bellingcat and White Helmets provided fake evidence of the usage of chemical weapons against members of the opposition and civilians by the Syria’s government headed by Bashar Asad. On the basis of stated evidence an investigation was initiated by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The fake was honed to perfection and the White Helmets achieved their desired goal. As a result, the international community found Bashar Asad guilty of using chemical weapons.

Such power move is not likely to be excluded of the toolbox of the side that is interested in escalating the Ukrainian crisis. Taking into consideration heavy losses on the Ukrainian side and the continuous Russian onslaught, a proven scheme to secure international support would come in handy.

All the more so, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are in a tough spot as the imported weaponry and ammunition did not allow them to effectively hold off the enemy for long. In the current situation only international outrage could save the Ukrainian authorities. If Russia is found guilty of using illegal weapons, it would oblige NATO to intervene. Officials of the NATO member countries have stated multiple times that breaking the prohibition of chemical weapons is the “red line” Russia cannot cross. However, such violation would play in Kyiv’s favor and would tip the balance in its favor.

Additionally, on 25 April Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative to UN Dmitriy Polyanski stated that members of the White Helmets have already arived to Ukraine. Another worrying factor that can serve as a proof of the intentions of Kyiv.

The point is that accusations against Russia have already been made, but they were not successful to say the least. Ukrainian media attempted to spin out a story about an alleged use of chemical weapons by the Russian Armed Forces against Azov battalion in Mariupol. The allegations were picked up by a number of Western outlets before the campaign failed due to the weakness of evidence base or maybe because it was too rushed.

Nevertheless the White Helmets can become the instrument that the Ukraine needs to achieve their goal. Ukraine cannot win the war on the ground, but it can drown Russia in waves of international sanctions. It is the least they will do. Ukraine will use any accessible method to win.

Ahmad Salah
Ahmad Salah
Freelance Syrian journalist focused on the Middle East and especially the Levant.