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A baby born amid false Russian claims

A Ukraine woman has given birth to a baby girl after fleeing a maternity hospital under attack by Russian forces and becoming the centre of a misinformation war.

Mariana Vishegirskaya had to get out of the Mariupol hospital when a Russian airstrike hit, and was photographed with a bloodied face as she navigated her way down the hospital’s debris-strewn stairs on Wednesday.

Images of the desperate mothers and medical workers from the Children’s and Women’s Health hospital shocked the world, as Russia’s war against Ukraine continued.

Taken to another hospital, Vishegirskaya and another woman who escaped the bombing have since given birth, their babies delivered to the sound of shellfire. A strike hit the new site where they were taken, too.

Facing worldwide condemnation, Russian officials made several false claims that the hospital had been taken over by far-right Ukrainian forces to use as a base and emptied of patients and nurses.

The Twitter account for the Russian Embassy in London claimed Vishegirskaya was not a victim, but a beauty blogger and model who was posing as two different pregnant women.

While she is a blogger who posts about skin care, makeup and cosmetics, there is no evidence that she was anything but a patient at the hospital. She has posted multiple photos and videos on Instagram documenting her pregnancy in the past few months, and in one, she can be seen wearing the same polka-dot pyjamas as on Wednesday.

The embassy posted side-by-side images of two Associated Press photos, one depicting Vishegirskaya and another of a woman being carried away on a stretcher, placing the word “FAKE” over them in red text. The caption claimed: “The maternity house was long non-operational” at the time of the strike.

The embassy followed with a second tweet in which it shared a photo of Vishegirskaya wrapped in a blanket outside the hospital alongside an image from her Instagram account to suggest she was playing a role.

Twitter has since removed the Russian Embassy’s tweets, and existing links are directed to a notice that says the posts violated Twitter’s rules.

AP reporters in Mariupol who documented the attack in video and photos saw the victims and damage first-hand – and nothing to indicate the hospital was used as anything other than a hospital.

The case drew attention at the UN Security Council, where Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzia held up copies of the AP photos during a meeting on Friday while repeating falsehoods about Vishegirskaya’s identity and the attack.

But US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield praised the media for “documenting the truth on the ground,” and adding: “Russia cannot cover up the work of AP news photographers.”

After the bombing, Vishegirskaya was taken to another hospital on the outskirts of the city, facing the front line, and gave birth via ceasarean section in a city that’s been cut off from food supplies, water, electricity and heat for more than a week.

On Friday, Vishegirskaya, in the same polka-dot clothing, was resting next to her newborn daughter Veronika.

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