Wednesday, February 21

Twitter removes Russian embassy tweet on Mariupol bombing | Ukraine

Twitter has removed a post from the Russian embassy in London about the Mariupol hospital bombing which claimed the facility was no longer operational and that images had been faked, following criticism from Downing Street.

No 10 accused the embassy of posting disinformation on Twitter after it posted pictures of the bombing emblazoned with the label “fake”. A series of follow-up tweets, including a claim that a victim of the bombing was “played” by a beauty blogger, have also been removed after Twitter said they “violated the Twitter rules”.

One of the embassy tweets removed by Twitter. Photograph: @RussianEmbassy/Twitter

The move came after a spokesman for Boris Johnson told reporters that the embassy was spreading disinformation. “It is clear that this is further disinformation. You have seen the pictures of the people who were wounded during that attack, and you have seen what the prime minister said in his tweet from him yesterday.

The spokesman said he was “not aware” that the Foreign Office had held “specific conversations” about reprimanding the embassy for the social media post.

Asked whether Boris Johnson would like social media platforms to shut down the embassy’s accounts, the spokesman replied: “That’s obviously a matter for Twitter, but we’ve been clear that that is disinformation. You’ve seen the increase in the civilians that have been targeted and sadly wounded and killed on the basis of Russian attacks.”

Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, accused the embassy of publishing fake news and said it had been reported to Twitter.

The Russian embassy has swung behind the Kremlin’s messaging on the war, including publishing unsubstantiated claims on Wednesday that Ukrainians were planning “a provocation with toxins” in order to accuse Russia of using chemical weapons.

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Britain and the US fear Russia could be preparing to use a chemical weapon in Ukraine after Kremlin officials made separate allegations, without firm evidence, that the US had been supporting a bioweapons program in Ukraine. It is understood that Twitter has ruled the “toxins” tweet does not breach its content guidelines.

Eliot Higgins, the founder of the investigative journalism website Bellingcat, urged Twitter to “kick these propaganda-spewing accounts off” the platform on Thursday. He challenged the embassy’s tweets on the Mariupol hospital bombing, in which a combined 600-bed complex with children’s and maternity wards was destroyed.

The Russian embassy tweeted press pictures of the bombing, including that of an injured pregnant woman on the stairs, with the label “FAKE” emblazoned across the post.

One of the embassy's tweets about the pregnant beauty blogger Marianna Podgurskaya.
One of the embassy’s tweets about the pregnant beauty blogger Marianna Podgurskaya. Photograph: @RussianEmbassy/Twitter

In a follow-up tweet, the embassy said a Ukrainian beauty blogger “played roles of both pregnant women” in photos it had highlighted, prompting Higgins to tweet that the blogger in question, Marianna Podgurskaya, had released pictures of her pregnancy on Instagram last month.

Twitter has been blocked in Russia in an apparent tit-for-tat response to the site blocking Russian state-owned media content across the European Union.

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