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8 Sep, 2023 11:35

Pope would ‘cheat’ Ukraine – top Zelensky aide

Mikhail Podoliak has reiterated claims that the pontiff was “pro-Russian” and implied that Moscow had bribed the Vatican
Pope would ‘cheat’ Ukraine – top Zelensky aide

Kiev will not accept mediation from Pope Francis in the conflict with Moscow, because the “pro-Russian” pontiff would betray Ukraine, a top aide to President Vladimir Zelensky has declared.

Mikhail Podoliak renewed his critique of the Catholic leader in an interview with national media published on Friday. He previously branded the Pope an “instrument of Russian propaganda” over the pontiff's claims that Catholics in Russia should cherish their nation’s history.

“There is no sense discussing a mediator titled the Pope, when he has a pro-Russian position that is absolutely obvious to everyone by now,” Podoliak said, claiming the Vatican would “cheat Ukraine and justice” should its intercession be allowed.

The Ukrainian official alleged that contrary to the Vatican’s stated position, the Pope is “promoting war.” He suggested looking “into investments made by Russia into the Vatican Bank” for a possible explanation, referring to the financial institution formally named the Institute for the Works of Religion.

Podoliak has previously accused other foreign institutions of taking Russian bribes. The International Olympic Committee became one such target in January, after it reversed a blanket ban on Russian athletes, and said they should be allowed to compete under a neutral flag.

The remarks made by the pontiff have hurt the Catholic cause and the reputation of the Holy See, Podoliak maintained, citing a caricature in a Polish magazine. Wprost displayed a picture of the Pope riding in his famous glass-sided car, atop a Russian armoured vehicle.

Zelensky’s aide described Poland as “pretty much the most Catholic nation, except the Vatican,” and argued that Pope Francis “has shown that he is no expert in politics and continues to reduce the influence of Catholicism in the word to zero.”

The Pope urged his Russian audience in a virtual speech last month to be proud of their country’s great history and culture. Moscow said it appreciated the sentiment, while Kiev labeled it as supporting Russia’s supposed imperial ambitions. The Vatican has refuted the Ukrainian interpretation of the speech.