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White Helmets chief reflects on Syria’s lessons for Ukraine

Raed al-Saleh, who leads the volunteer rescue group in Syria, offered advice to Ukrainians seeking to document Russia's potential war crimes in real time.
A man rides a motorcycle past cement blocks bearing flags of Ukraine (C L) and the Syrian opposition with inscriptions, one in Cyrillic (L) which reads "Slava Ukraini" ("glory to Ukraine"), a Ukrainian national salute, and another in Arabic which reads "glory to free Syria", near the Syrian rebel-held city of al-Bab in the northern Aleppo governorate, on Feb. 28, 2022.

For Raed al-Saleh, the chief of the White Helmets rescue organization in Syria, the images of buildings reduced to rubble in Ukraine look depressingly familiar. Russian warplanes have bombed opposition-held parts of his country since 2015, turning the tide of the decadelong battle in President Bashar al-Assad’s favor through an unrelenting air campaign that's destroyed schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in the name of attacking terrorists.  

“For seven years, we have been suffering from what the search-and-rescue teams are suffering from in Ukraine today,” Saleh told Al-Monitor by phone on Monday. 

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