Russian planes bombed a hospital in Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 9, killing three people and injuring at least 17, including two pregnant women seen in photos shared around the world. Social media posts falsely claimed one woman “posed” as the two women. One of the women died of her injuries, along with her baby; the other gave birth to a daughter.
After several days of bombardment of the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, Russian warplanes struck a maternity hospital on March 9, killing three, including a child, and injuring at least 17 people.
An unidentified pregnant woman seen in widely shared images being carried away on a stretcher later died of her injuries, along with her baby.
Another woman seen in photos from the bombing was social media influencer Marianna Podgurskaya. Podgurskaya was photographed bloodied and wrapped in a blanket descending a flight of stairs at the damaged hospital. She was transferred to another hospital, where she gave birth on March 10 to a daughter.
Yet photos of Podgurskaya and the woman who died were misrepresented in social media posts in Russia and elsewhere to falsely claim Podgurskaya was a paid crisis actor who posed as two different pregnant women.
A Facebook post from an account called Rick Pickle claimed the photos are “indisputable evidence of the production of ‘shots with pregnant women,’ which is the responsibility of Ukrainian troll propagandists and their Polish media instructors.” The post claimed “the model Marianna … posed for the photo shoots in the ruins of the hospital.” It says she changed clothes and applied fake blood to appear to be a second pregnant woman.
The disinformation campaign about the Mariupol bombing started trending on Russian Telegram, according to BBC journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh, and was repeated in a tweet from the Russian embassy in the U.K. The embassy said Podgurskaya “has some very realistic makeup” and could not have been at the hospital because it had been cleared. Twitter subsequently removed the posts.
Russian officials sought to downplay the attack. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the hospital had not been operational and was being used by Ukrainian troops.
Mariupol has been one of the hardest hit Ukrainian cities since Russian troops entered the country three weeks ago.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said that more than 2,500 people had died in Mariupol as a result of Russian bombing, CNN reported.
Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here. Facebook has no control over our editorial content.
Chernov, Mstyslav. “Pregnant Woman, Baby Die After Russian Bombing in Mariupol.” Associated Press. 15 Mar 2022.
Jaffe, Greg. “In Embattled Mariupol, Glimpses of Devastation and Misery Emerge.” Washington Post. 15 Mar 2022.
Kaonga, Gerrard. “Mariupol Hospital Bombing Victim Gives Birth as Russia Accuses Her of Being ‘Crisis Actor.’” Newsweek. 11 Mar 2022.
Karmanau, Yuras. “Ukrainians flee besieged cities as conditions worsen.” Associated Press. 9 Mar 2022.
Lister, Tim and Julia Kesa. “Ukraine puts death toll in Mariupol bombardment at more than 2,500.” CNN. 14 Mar 2022.
Maloletka, Evgeniy. “Airstrike hits Ukraine maternity hospital, 17 reported hurt.” Associated Press. 10 Mar 2022.
Middleton, Joe. “Pregnant woman injured in Ukraine hospital bombing gives birth.” Independent. 11 Mar 2022.
Quadri, Sami. “Pregnant Ukrainian Woman Seen Fleeing Mariupol Hospital Blast Gives Birth to Baby Girl.” Evening Standard. 12 Mar 2022.
Shayan Sardarizadeh. Bio page, Muck Rack. Accessed 16 Mar 2022.
Stambaugh, Alex, et al. “Pregnant Woman and Her Baby Die After Mariupol Maternity Hospital Bombing.” CNN. 14 Mar 2022.