The photos of the Ukrainian blogger Mariana Vishegirskaya from Mariupol went around the world when she had to flee a clinic pregnant. Now she criticizes that Russia used these images to spread lies about the war.

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Millions of people around the world shared in the fate of Mariana Vishegirskaya. She is one of the many faces of an inhumane war because her photo has been featured so often in the media. Now the woman from Ukraine, who fled a bombed clinic in Mariupol while pregnant, is speaking for the first time to a major broadcaster in the West, the British BBC. “My picture was used to spread lies about the war,” she says, accusing Russia.

Kremlin circles accuse Mariana Vishegirskaya of acting

Vishegirskaya became known for a photo that shows her wrapped in a blanket with bloody wounds on her face. It was posted on March 9, the Ukrainian blogger is heavily pregnant and about to give birth. She has to flee because the hospital where she wants to give birth to her child is badly hit and damaged by Russian bombs.

Two days later she gives birth to her daughter Veronika in another hospital. While many people take a great interest in the fate of mother and child, others make serious accusations against her. She is an actress. The photo outside the Mariupol hospital was fake, the Russian embassy in London claimed in a series of tweets that have since been deleted. Russian diplomats even claimed that Vishegirskaya “played” not one, but two different women.

Daughter Veronika “chosen to show up at a difficult time”

She then saw herself and her family exposed to a wave of “disinformation and hatred,” the Ukrainian told the BBC interview: “I received threats that they would come and find me, that I would be killed, that my child would be cut to pieces would.”

She felt “like in an information battle,” she says to BBC reporter Marianna Spring. She says of daughter Veronika: “She decided to show up at a difficult time, but it’s better that she arrived under these circumstances than not at all.”

Influencer Mariana Vishegirskaya accuses photographers

She also tells the British broadcaster how the famous photo was taken. The hospital in Mariupol was badly hit by two explosions on March 9. She sought protection in the air-raid shelter and was injured by shards of glass, she explains her bleeding wounds in the photo.

A doctor told her she didn’t need stitches. But she wanted to go back to the hospital to collect personal belongings, she explains to the BBC. “Everything I prepared for my baby was in that maternity ward.”

Twitter deleted the tweet from the Russian Embassy in England

As she waited to collect her belongings, she was photographed by Associated Press (AP) journalists, Vishegirskaya continues. When she left the hospital, she was photographed again by the AP. These images spread quickly.

Circles close to the Kremlin quickly spread the word on Telegram channels that they had been staged. Vishegirskaya was an actress, the blood on her face was only make-up, she was accused. Russian officials and state media seized on these claims.

Vishegirskaya tells the BBC she only found out about it days later. Her Instagram account was “flooded” with “threatening messages” and insults, she says.

The fact that her story could be so misused is to be blamed on the AP journalists. The reporters only spread photos of her. Why didn’t the journalists “interview other pregnant women who could confirm that this attack really happened?” she wonders.