Twitter blocks Russian claims on hospital attack

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aftermath of hospital strikeImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
Three people including a child died when Russia struck a hospital on Wednesday

Twitter has removed two posts by the Russian embassy in London which claimed the bombing of a Ukrainian hospital by Russian forces had been faked.

The Mariupol hospital was attacked on Wednesday, leaving three people dead.

But the embassy's tweets made unfounded claims the hospital was not operational at the time, and that injured women pictured at the scene were actors.

Twitter told the BBC the tweets violated rules "related to the denial of violent events".

Officials at the embassy have offered no proof to back up their claims, and the BBC's disinformation team has found evidence which contradicts the allegations.

The embassy claimed the hospital had been "long non-operational". However, a week-old post on the hospital's Facebook page asked for fuel to keep operations going.

Reports from Mariupol last week - from the Associated Press news agency and Sky News - also says it was treating bombing victims, and that the maternity ward had been moved to the basement.

The allegation that a beauty blogger was used to fake photos of a pregnant woman at the scene was also called into question, as the woman in question, who lives in the city, is seen heavily pregnant in Instagram posts dating from last month.

Image source, TWITTER
Image caption,
This tweet was deleted by Twitter for violating its rules

The initial claims that the bombing was faked by Ukraine did not come from the embassy. They first began trending among Russian users of the Telegram messaging app earlier in the day, and were then mentioned on state television news bulletins and chat shows.

A further claim circulating that the beauty blogger also pretended to be another woman caught up in the bombing and photographed at the scene is also untrue. A look at high-resolution images of the other woman featured in the claims shows she looks nothing like the beauty blogger. Those are two different women.

Finally there were accusations that the hospital had been taken over by a far-right battalion of the Ukrainian army. As yet there is no evidence that this was the case.

These claims all continue to circulate online, despite the tweets being removed.

The pregnant beauty blogger's Instagram account has also now become a target for online trolls and conspiracy theorists.

Social media companies have been trying to tackle misinformation on their platforms, with many big tech companies blocking Russian broadcasters RT and Sputnik.

But Twitter has not banned several accounts linked to Russian government organisations - including Vladimir Putin's official Twitter account.

The Russian embassy account also remains active.