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Twitter Deletes Russian Embassy U.K. Tweets Claiming Maternity Hospital Was Staged
RUSSIANS INVADE UKRAINE -- MARCH 9, 2022: 09 Maxar satellite imagery of Mariupol Childrens Hospital and buildings BEFORE the bombing-- in Mariupol, Ukraine. Imagery was captured before the building was bombed. 9mar2022_wv3. Please use: Satellite image (c) 2022 Maxar Technologies.
Satellite image (c) 2022 Maxar Technologies

Twitter stepped into the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine on Thursday, deleting tweets from Russia’s Embassy in the United Kingdom that claimed photos of the bombing of a maternity hospital in the embattled city of Mariupol had been staged.

The BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh — who routinely reports on disinformation, conspiracy theories, cults, and extremism — detailed the Russian Embassy U.K.’s efforts to spin the deadly attack in his own thread, noting that the narrative had changed several times along the way.

“It’s day 15 of war in Ukraine. 1) After yesterday’s deadly attack on a Mariupol maternity hospital, a false claim began trending on Russian Telegram that a non-preganant crisis actor played the role of two pregnant women there. It was echoed by the Russian Embassy in UK today,” Sardarizadeh began, sharing screenshots of the false claim’s reach.

He then broke down the claims, noting that the woman they accused of being a “crisis actor” could possibly have been at the maternity hospital because she was actually pregnant.

“Let’s take their claims one by one. Marianna Podgurskaya, the woman they claim to be a crisis actor, is indeed a beauty influencer who actually lives in Mariupol. Multiple recent images show she’s heavily pregnant, which is why she’d be at a maternity hospital yesterday,” he tweeted, sharing photos from Podgurskaya’s social media accounts.

“The claim she was acting the role of two pregnant women yesterday is simply preposterous,” Sardarizadeh continued. “A look at high-res images of the other woman featured in their claims shows she looks nothing like Ms Podgurskaya. These are two different women.”

Sardarizadeh went on to note that another false claim circulating was that the hospital had been empty at the time it was bombed — but a post from just days earlier asking for fuel to help keep the hospital up and running despite the invasion made it clear that was a lie.

“Every claim made by pro-Kremlin accounts and the Russian Embassy in the UK is false. But those false claims are all over the internet, including on 4chan. Ms Pogurskaya will likely be a target for online trolls for some time, on top of the disaster she’s already endured,” he added.

Twitter stepped in then, deleting at least two of the demonstrably false statements tweeted by the Russian Embassy, UK.

“Twitter has now removed two of the three demonstrably false tweets by the Russian embassy in UK, saying they violated its rules,” Sardarizadeh reported.

TIME’s Vera Bergengruen reported that Twitter confirmed removing the tweets, saying that they had violated the platform’s regulations against denying violent events.

“Update: A Twitter spokesperson just confirmed that these tweets from the Russian Embassy have been removed for violating their ‘denial of violent events’ rules,” she tweeted.

Conspiracy researcher Mike Rothschild argued that Twitter should have gone further, and advocated removing all “propaganda accounts” from the platform entirely.

“The UK Russian embassy account claims the maternity hospital hit by Russian artillery was fake, and the victims of the attack are crisis actors. Time for Twitter to deplatform all these propaganda accounts,” he said.

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