The Russian embassy to the UK has falsely claimed an attack on a maternity ward in Ukraine was faked, bizarrely stating that a local beauty blogger was covered in make-up to appear injured.
In a Twitter thread, the embassy referenced Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who justified Wednesday's devastating attack on Mariupol maternity hospital by falsely claiming it was no longer functional and had instead been taken over by the "neo-Nazi Azov Battalion."
The attack on the maternity ward on Wednesday has caused outrage across the world and been condemned by the UN. The European Commission has branded it "inhumane, cruel and tragic" and probably a war crime.
Ukrainian authorities said a child was among the dead in Wednesday’s airstrike in the vital southern port of Mariupol.
Seventeen people were also wounded, including women waiting to give birth, doctors, and children buried in the rubble.
When people pointed out to the Russian embassy there were two images of injured pregnant women being evacuated from the hospital, they claimed the pictures were staged.
They identified her as beauty blogger Marianna Podgurskaya and claimed she featured in both images despite wearing different clothing.
They claimed the photos were taken by "famous propagandist photographer Evgeniy Maloletka, rather than rescuers and witnesses as one would expect."
The embassy acknowledged she was actually pregnant but she was wearing "very realistic make-up."
They added: "Plus she could not be in the maternity house at the time of the strike, as it has long been taken by the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion who told all the staff to clear the place."
Podgurskaya can be seen to have numerous cuts and bruises on her face.
The Tweet was later removed by Twitter for violating its rules.
On Thursday, Lavrov was asked how to justify the bombing at a press conference in Turkey ahead of peace talks with his Ukrainian counterpart
“With regards to the maternity hospital, it is not the first time we have seen pathetic outcries concerning the so-called atrocities perpetrated by the Russian military,” the foreign minister said, according to a Sky translation.
Watch: Makeshift maternity ward set up in Ukraine bomb shelter
He also claimed Ukrainian forces had taken over the maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol, an industrial port city that has been under attack for days, and there were no patients there at the time of the airstrikes.
At the same press conference, he also claimed Russia had not invaded Ukraine.
At the meeting in a Turkish Mediterranean resort between Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, they failed to find much common ground.
In their highest-level talks since the war began, the two sides discussed a 24-hour cease-fire but did not make progress, Kuleba said. He said Russia was still seeking “surrender from Ukraine.”
“This is not what they are going to get,” he said, adding that he was willing to continue the dialogue.
Lavrov said Russia was ready for more negotiations but showed no sign of softening Moscow’s demands.
Condemning the attack Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said: "What kind of country is this, the Russian Federation, which is afraid of hospitals, is afraid of maternity hospitals, and destroys them?"