A pregnant woman in Ukraine who appeared in photos that went viral after the Russian military shelled a maternity hospital in Mariupol on March 9 has died, according to a new report from the Associated Press. The woman was at the centre of an international controversy last week after several Russian embassies and Russian state media falsely tweeted the woman was part of a staged operation to make Russia look bad.
After the attack on the maternity hospital, the woman was reportedly taken to another health care facility where doctors delivered the baby by cesarean, but the child showed “no signs of life,” according to the Associated Press. The woman’s pelvis was crushed and her hip was detached according to the surgeon who worked on her, identified by the AP as Timur Marin, and the woman died shortly after the baby.
The dead woman’s name was unknown to the doctors who spoke with the AP, but her body was claimed by her father and husband, according to the report. That part is notable, the AP says, because dead bodies left unclaimed are being placed into mass graves in Mariupol, where at least 2,187 civilians have been killed so far during the Russian invasion, according to the Kyiv Independent.
Russian propaganda has kicked into overdrive ever since the country first invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, with Russian embassies even tweeting out about how the women seen at the maternity hospital were “fake.” That same message was tweeted by Russian state media outlet RT, though the tweets were eventually deleted by Twitter for spreading misinformation.
In reality, 17 people were injured in the attack on the maternity hospital and three people were killed, including a child, according to a report from the BBC.
Another woman who was photographed at the maternity hospital, Mariana Vishegirskaya, survived the attack and gave birth to a healthy child, according to multiple news reports. Vishegirskaya received harassment on Instagram after Russian state media suggested that she was part of a false flag operation, staging an attack on the maternity hospital.
Russia claimed the hospital was actually mostly empty and being used by Ukrainian military forces, but open source intelligence firm Bellingcat geolocated the “empty” hospital to about 10 km away from the one that was shelled in Mariupol.
Over 2.6 million refugees have fled Ukraine, according to the latest figures from the United Nations, with the majority, 1.6 million, currently in Poland. And while no one’s quite sure why Vladimir Putin decided now would be a brilliant time to invade a sovereign country, all we know for sure is that Ukraine will produce a lot more people seeking asylum if Russia isn’t stopped.
Unfortunately for Ukraine, the people most well equipped to counter Russia’s aggression also have nuclear weapons, meaning that if the U.S. or EU engage in direct attacks against Russian forces, we’ve all got World War III on our hands. And while plenty of people are sympathetic to the Ukrainian cause and want to help, there’s no simple solution to fighting against another nuclear power without mushroom clouds across the globe.