Russia is accused of having drafted many men from ethnic minorities in Siberia and the Caucasus region during the partial mobilization. For Pope Francis, these minorities are among the "cruelest" in the Russian military. Foreign Minister Lavrov reacted promptly.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has condemned as "unchristian" statements by Pope Francis that members of ethnic minorities in Russia are among the "cruelest" in Moscow's military in Ukraine. "Pope Francis is calling for talks but recently made an incomprehensible statement, completely unchristian, in which he placed two Russian nationalities in a category from which atrocities can be expected during hostilities," Lavrov said on television. "Obviously this does not serve the cause and authority of the Holy See," he said.
The Russian news agency Ria Novosti had reported that Moscow's ambassador to the Vatican had lodged a formal complaint. In an interview, Pope Francis said some of the "cruelest" in the Russian military ranks in Ukraine may be those who "are not of the Russian tradition" but belong to minorities like "the Chechens, the Buryats and so on". Chechnya is a Caucasus republic with a predominantly Muslim population. Buryatia is a Buddhist region in Siberia between Lake Baikal and Mongolia.
When the Kremlin announced the partial mobilization of hundreds of thousands in September, accusations were leveled against Moscow that a particularly large number of men from ethnic minorities in Siberia and the Caucasus region were being called up. Kremlin critics say minorities from impoverished and isolated regions are dying in greater numbers than ethnic Russians. Critics have also accused a unit from Buryatia of playing a central role in the killing of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine. Russia has denied the allegations and has spoken of a "staging" of Ukraine and its western allies.