Russia condemns Pope’s Ukraine war criticism
The “cruellest” soldiers tend to be Chechen and Buryat, he told America, a US-based Jesuit magazine.
The Kremlin called the Pope’s comments a “perversion” and said Russia’s nationalities formed a “family”.
When asked about his reluctance to directly condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the 85-year-old pontiff said he received “much information about the cruelty of the troops”.
“Generally, the cruellest are perhaps those who are of Russia but are not of the Russian tradition, such as the Chechens, the Buryats and so on [but] the one who invades is the Russian state,” the reformist leader said. “Sometimes I try not to specify so as not to offend and rather condemn in general, although it is well known whom I am condemning. It is not necessary that I put a name and surname.”
He later added: “Everyone knows my stance, with Putin or without Putin, without naming him.”
Chechens from southern Russia are mostly Muslim and the Buryats are a Mongol group from Buryatia in eastern Siberia that are traditionally Buddhist or shamanic.
The Pope said he regularly spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and dealt with the Kremlin through Russia’s Vatican ambassador.
The Pope also called the Holodomor famine caused by Josef Stalin in Ukraine in the 1930s a genocide.
He added that he wanted to mark the Holodomor’s anniversary saying it was a “historical antecedent” to the February invasion.
An estimated 4 million Ukrainians died of famine from 1932-33 after Stalin enforced the collectivisation of farms, resulting in the breakdown of agricultural production in the Soviet Union’s breadbasket.
Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told RT: “This is no longer Russophobia, it’s a perversion on a level I can’t even name.”
She also posted on Telegram: “We are one family with Buryats, Chechens and other representatives of our multinational and multi-faith country. And together we will definitely pray for the Holy See, each in their own way – wishing them delivery from temptation.”
In contrast, Ukraine’s TV-24 news said Ukrainians had waited nine months for a message from the Pope, adding that he had previously been criticised for “scandalous” comments praising Russia as a great nation with “humane attitudes” and because he called for peace negotiations “while Russian missiles were flying at Ukrainian cities”.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is partictulary hardline on the Ukraine war. Picture credit: Kremlin