UK's Russian Embassy claims Mariupol maternity hospital attack photos were staged

The Russian Embassy in the UK claimed an image of a heavily pregnant and injured woman fleeing the hospital was staged. Credit: AP

The Russian Embassy in London has claimed photos showing the aftermath of a strike on a Mariupol maternity hospital which left three people, including a child, dead, and 17 others, including women waiting to give birth, injured, were staged.

Despite the attack being confirmed, the official Twitter account pushed a bizarre conspiracy theory that a women pictured in images of the attack which have gone viral is famous Ukrainian beauty blogger Marianna Podgurskaya posing, and that the maternity hospital had been taken over by the far-right Azov Brigade who told all staff to leave the building days earlier.

Images posted on Ms Podgurskaya's Instagram account show that at the end of February (the date of the last post) she was heavily pregnant.

It is not known if the woman pictured is Mariupol resident Ms Podgurskaya, but the images were not staged.

Azov is a far-right all-volunteer infantry military unit whose members – estimated at 900 – are ultra-nationalists and accused of harbouring neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology. It was formed in 2014 and has fought against pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, as well as carrying out attacks.

Russia has repeatedly said that its reason for carrying out its invasion of Ukraine was to "de-Nazify" the country, a claim not based on facts.

The Russian Embassy in the UK claimed photos of the aftermath of the attack were staged. Credit: Twitter

While some of the embassy's tweets were deleted by Twitter for violating the company's rules, more than three hours after it was posted, a tweet claiming Ms Podgurskaya was wearing "very realistic make-up" and the hospital had been taken over by the Azov Brigade remained online.

Twitter did remove another tweet by the Russian Embassy, which suggested the hospital had been "long non-operational" and was being used by Ukrainian armed forces and "radicals", attributing the remarks to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrorv, after it was branded "fake news" by the culture secretary.

The unsubstantiated tweet added that Moscow warned the UN Security Council about this three days ago.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries retweeted the message and said: "This is fake news."

The tweet was reported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) and has since been removed with a note in its place saying: "This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules."

Twitter said the tweet was in violation specifically of its hateful conduct and abusive behaviour policies relating to the denial of violent events.

The Russian Embassy UK account is verified with a blue tick and has more than 150,000 followers.

Ukrainian MP Inna Sovsun, deputy leader of the Holos Party, said: "It's not just some random or unknown account on Twitter. It's an account of an official organisation, which is the embassy of the Russian Federation.

"So that is something that Twitter can follow up upon, I believe.

"I do think that Twitter at least should take care of the official accounts, like embassies and so on.

"Or just take them down, frankly speaking that would do the job as well, it's easier just to take them down completely, than try to, you know, follow up on every single tweet, because they're lying to us all the time.

"Whenever a Russian official is about to open his mouth, he is about to tell a lie.

"They just constantly lie. And we should just stop listening to him (Sergey Lavrov), we should stop transmitting whatever they're saying."

Ms Sovsun also pointed out there is photographic evidence of women being carried out of the hospital.

"You did see the picture of the pregnant women taken out of that hospital. They were there.

"They were really pregnant, they were really hurt. And we had three people at least killed, confirmed, in that attack."

The attack on the maternity hospital was the latest devastating blow to the besieged city, where for "nine days, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute Russia destroys and threatens the city," Mariupol's deputy mayor told ITV News.