On March 9, shocking photos and videos were published in the international press from the maternity hospital in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which was targeted by Russian air strikes. They showed Ukrainian forces evacuating wounded pregnant women from the rubble of a hospital.
Later, however, Russian media and official sources claimed that the scenes were staged and that the maternity hospital housed militant groups considered extremely nationalist by Moscow, who had “expelled the medical staff and the pregnant women/mothers from there” days before the air strikes.
“Pregnant women injured, a child dead“: The reaction of the international press and Kiev
Videos and photos of pregnant women evacuated from the Mariupol maternity hospital were widely circulated in the world press, social media and official Ukrainian sources. President of Ukraine Voldymir Zelensky posted a video of the bombed hospital on his official social media page, describing it as an atrocity.
“The targeted air strike of the Russian troops hits the Mariupol maternity hospital. People, children are under the rubble,” he wrote.
According to the Mariupol city authorities, there are 17 injured medical staff and pregnant women/mothers as a result of air strikes on the maternity hospital. And according to the BBC, three people were killed in the air strikes, including a child.
“Moscow targets hospital turned into Nazi stronghold”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu at a diplomatic forum in Antalya on March 10 that the Russian delegation to the UN Security Council had announced on March 7 that the Azov militant group considered a Nazi group by Russia was stationed at the maternity hospital, having expelled the medical staff and pregnant women from there.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said at a briefing on March 9 that the news of the Mariupol maternity hospital bombing was “information terrorism.”
The information that the Russian side had warned the world a few days before the air strikes about the maternity hospital becoming a base for an armed group emerged only the day after the air strikes, on March 10. According to Lavrov, the Russian delegation also presented evidence that the maternity hospital was a “stronghold of the Nazis” at the March 7 meeting of the UN Security Council․ However, Russian officials or official media did not refer to that information before March 9.
We managed to find information on turning the Mariupol maternity hospital into a military base before March 9 on the Russian news website Lenta.ru. According to a March 8 publication, Igor, the son of one of the maternity hospital staff, noted that people in military uniforms, who were either members of the Ukrainian armed forces or members of the Azov group, visited the maternity hospital in late February. According to Igor, the latter “expelled the staff from the maternity hospital, claiming that they were going to turn it into a base”.
It is also noteworthy that the targeting of the maternity hospital was also criticized by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on his Twitter microblog, which may mean several things against the background of Lavrov’s statements. It can mean that Guterres was not convinced by the evidence presented by Russia at the Security Council meeting, or Russia simply did not present any evidence, or Guterres ignored the evidence presented by Russia and decided to criticize the country, joining the “information terrorism” described by Zakharova.
Today’s attack on a hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, where maternity & children’s wards are located, is horrific.
Civilians are paying the highest price for a war that has nothing to do with them.
This senseless violence must stop.
End the bloodshed now.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) March 9, 2022
“Scenes staged with the participation of models”
After the airstrikes, the Russian media was flooded with claims that the scenes of the evacuation of pregnant women and medical staff after the bombing of the Mariupol maternity hospital were staged.
According to one version, the videos of the air strikes were spread on the Internet in the afternoon of March 9, while the videos and photos of the evacuation of pregnant women appeared on the Internet later in the evening. Although true, this circumstance cannot be used as evidence that the scenes were staged.
Russian sources have identified beauty blogger Marianna Podgurskaya among the women photographed against the background of the ruins of the maternity hospital, who was really pregnant at the time. According to the BBC Russian service, she gave birth on March 11.
It should be noted that in order to promote their version of the “staging”, Russian websites emphasize the fact that Podgurskaya lives in Kiev and express doubts about her appearing in the maternity hospital of the city in the south-east of Ukraine, which has become the scene of hot battles.
FIP.am studied Podgurskaya’s Instagram page and noticed that both before the war and in the first days of the war many of her social media posts were made from Mariupol.
Russian sources also note that the author of all the photos of the evacuation of pregnant women and medical staff, which are spread on the Internet, is well-known Ukrainian and international photographer Yevgeny Maloletka, who works for prominent Ukrainian and international media.
The Fact Investigation Platform did not find any photos or videos of these or other pregnant women (amateur or professional) in any online resource.