Edinburgh University professor accused of spreading Russian propaganda

Edinburgh University professor accused of spreading Russian propaganda
The professor - who previously spread pro-Syrian regime propaganda - has been accused of spreading Russian propaganda on the Mariupol theatre attack in Ukraine to his almost 20,000 twitter followers.
2 min read
24 March, 2022
Tim Hayward is a Professor of Environmental Political Theory at Edinburgh University [Getty]

A professor at the University of Edinburgh has been accused of spreading Russian propaganda after he tweeted a link to an article suggesting the Russian Mariupol theatre attack in Ukraine was staged by Ukrainian extremists.

Tim Hayward shared the link, writing "what do we know of the reality?" to his almost 20,000 followers before a swarm of users criticised his post, many suggesting he should "go to Mariupol and work [it] out" for himself.

Mariupol is a port city in eastern Ukraine that has been subject to a harrowing siege and bombardment by Russian forces.

The article Hayward shared was from The Grayzone, an outlet that has previously published articles similar to Kremlin's narratives on the war and against Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Ukrainian authorities say Russian forces hit the theatre, where "hundreds" of civilians were taking shelter in the besieged port city last Wednesday. However, Russia has denied the accusations against them with pro-Kremlin pundits and activists claiming it was a false flag attack. 

Following the attack, around 200,000 people in Mariupol were reported on Tuesday as being trapped, encircled and under fire from relentless Russian shelling as Moscow continues its brutal invasion of Ukraine, which began on 24 February.

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Following his controversial tweet, the professor encouraged "critical thinking... and media literacy" as crucial aspects of education, stating it is needed " to understand how communications are used for purposes of power". 

 “I do not claim to know the answer. Whatever the answer is, there can be no justification for the invasion by Russia. My interest is only that we can trust the veracity of news reports... I am certainly not pro-Putin," Hayward said in a statement quoted by the Times.

Hayward has previously shared conspiracy theories backed by Assad supporters, claiming video evidence documenting Syria's use of chemical weapons on its civilian population was fabricated, the Times reported.

However, the UN-backed international Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons stated there were "reasonable grounds" to believe the Syrian regime did use chemical weapons.

US President Joe Biden warned this week that Russia may follow its Syrian ally and use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.