The Pope has sparked fury in Russia following an interview where he suggested that Chechen and Buryat members of the armed forces showed more cruelty than ethnic Russian soldiers in Ukraine
Pope Francis said that soldiers from the Buddhist region of Buryatia and the Muslim majority Chechnya republic were “the cruellest” while fighting in Ukraine during an interview with the Jesuit magazine America that was published Monday.
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The head of the Catholci church claimed: “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”
There is no data that suggests soldiers from national minorities have behaved worse in Ukraine than ethnic Russian members.
MSN reports: The pope’s comments were swiftly condemned by Russian officials on Monday evening.
“This is no longer Russophobia, it’s a perversion on a level I can’t even name,” Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on her Telegram channel.
“We are one family with Buryats, Chechens and other representatives of our multinational and multi-confessional country,” Zakharova added.
Alexandra Garmazhapova, the founder of the anti-war Free Buryatia organisation, called the comments “inexcusable and racist.”
“I was extremely disappointed to read these racist, inexcusable statements,” said Garmazhapova.
“Russia is waging an imperial war started and led by Vladimir Putin, who is by all accounts not a member of an ethnic minority. The pope should condemn him personally, but he decided to sidestep the Russian president.”
“Let’s not forget that the Russian Orthodox Church is one of the biggest supporters of the war,” Garmazhapova added, referring to the public backing of the war by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill.
Garmazhapova also pointed to a Ukrainian investigation that identified a group of ethnic Russian troops as the main suspects behind the killings of civilians in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha last spring.
“These comments are wrong on so many levels,” she said.
It is not the first time that the pope has faced controversy over his views on Ukraine. Kyiv has repeatedly criticised the head of the Catholic church since the start of Russia’s invasion in February for failing to adequately condemn the Kremlin for its role in the conflict.
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