Russian state media and the Russian embassies around the world have spent the past day on Twitter and Instagram harassing a pregnant Ukrainian woman who appeared in photos published around the world after she was injured in an attack by the Russian military on Wednesday. The woman was in a maternity ward when it was shelled by Russian forces, something the Russian government denies. In fact, the Russian government has even started to spread conspiracy theories that the pregnant woman was part of a false flag attack.
The Russian embassy in London tweeted photos of the aftermath with the word “FAKE” over it, claiming that the maternity hospital was “non-operational” and actually housed “neo-Nazi” soldiers from the Azov Battalion. Ukraine denies staging anything and said the attack on the hospital was an act of genocide.
At least 17 people were injured in the attack and three people were killed, including a child, according to the BBC. But that didn’t stop anti-Ukraine Twitter accounts from casting doubt on the incident in the aftermath.
“A children’s hospital, a maternity ward. How did they threaten the Russian Federation? What is this country, the Russian Federation, that is afraid of hospitals, maternity wards and is destroying them?” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Telegram according to the Guardian.
A second tweet by the Russian embassy on Thursday said that the pregnant victim was “played” by a beauty blogger. Believe it or not, beauty bloggers also get pregnant and need to go to maternity hospitals for care. The conspiracy theory tweets by the Russian embassy helped spur harassment of the woman on Instagram.
Both tweets by the Russian embassy in the UK have been deleted by Twitter for spreading misinformation and Russian state media channel RT spread identical tweets early Friday before it received a 12 hour ban.
Some users on Twitter published videos claiming to show the hospital that was shelled with troops operating from it as a base. But the open source intelligence organisation Bellingcat has geolocated those videos to roughly 6 miles away from the maternity hospital that came under attack.
The actual location of the photograph used by @israel_mid_ru to support their claim the Azov battalion was operating at the Mariupol maternity hospital bombed by Russia was geolocated by @digitaljonah to 47.101092, 37.671539, over 10km away from the actual hospital site. https://t.co/uFuao8c1gm pic.twitter.com/ZaOP8jCnD6— Bellingcat (@bellingcat) March 11, 2022
At least 2.3 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia first invaded on Feb. 24, according to the United Nations, with the overwhelming majority currently in Poland.
Strangely, the official position of the Russian government is that Russia has never invaded Ukraine. Seriously.
“We are not planning to attack other countries. We didn’t attack Ukraine in the first place,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday after failed peace talks in Turkey.
Not only is the Russian government spreading disinformation online, they’re very openly denying things the whole world can see with our own eyes.