A former British army officer, who helped start the “White Helmets”, an emergency response group in Syria, has been found dead near his home in Istanbul, just days after the Russian foreign ministry menaced him, accusing him of being a spy.
James Le Mesurier, 48, was the director of Mayday Rescue charity that trained members of the Syria Civil Defence, nicknamed the White Helmets, playing a major role in its creation in Turkey in 2013.
He was awarded an OBE for his work helping Syrians three years later.
The police have yet to confirm how Mr Le Mesurier died, but he is believed to have fallen from the balcony of his apartment in the Turkish city at dawn on Monday.
His death comes just three days after he was publicly attacked by Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman, who on Friday claimed he was a “former agent of Britain’s MI6, who has been spotted all around the world”.
He and the White Helmets had been the subject of a disinformation campaign spearheaded by Moscow and their allies in Damascus for years. [Continue reading…]
It’s too soon to know whether hard evidence will emerge implicating the Kremlin in Le Mesurier’s death, but it’s long been clear that Russia has less interest in covering its tracks than it has in promoting the perception that Putin has the capacity and willingness to eliminate his opponents with little fear of significant blowback.
Last year, Janine di Giovanni noted:
Since 2015, the year the Russians began fighting in Syria, the White Helmets have been filming attacks on opposition-held areas with GoPro cameras affixed to their helmets. Syria and Russia have claimed they were attacking only terrorists, yet the White Helmets have captured footage of dead and injured women and children under the rubble. According to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, as well as eyewitness accounts, Putin’s bombers have targeted civilians, schools, hospitals, and medical facilities in opposition-held areas, a clear violation of international law. “This, above all, is what the Russians hated,” Ben Nimmo, a fellow at the Atlantic Council specializing in Russian disinformation, told me. “That the White Helmets are filming war crimes.”