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Pope Francis urges Russia to avoid ‘nuclear disaster’ in Zaporizhzhia as Ukraine marks Independence Day

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Aug 24, 2022

Pope Francis urged Russia not to cause a “nuclear disaster” at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine on Wednesday.

Wednesday marks both Ukraine’s traditional Independence Day and six months since the start of Russia’s invasion. The Zaporizhzhia plant has been under Russian control since the early weeks of the war, and experts have warned that destroying it could lead to a “Chernobyl on steroids.”

Ukrainian officials criticized the Pope for another part of his speech in which he described 29-year-old Daria Dugina, who was killed in a car bombing in Moscow on Saturday, as an innocent victim.

“Innocents pay for war,” Francis Wednesday, going on to reference “that poor girl thrown in the air by a bomb under the seat of a car in Moscow.”

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Dugina was the daughter of influential Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who pushed aggressively for the war in Ukraine.

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While the Russian FSB has said Ukraine is to blame for the attack, Ukrainian officials have rejected those accusations. Andrii Yurash, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican, called Pope Francis’ comments “disappointing” on Twitter.

“Today’s speech from the Pope was disappointing,” Yurash wrote, calling Dugina an “ideologist of imperialism” and alleging that “she was killed by Russians.”

“Can’t speak in same categories about aggressor and victim, rapist and raped,” he added.

Dugina had espoused many of the same Russian nationalist views as her father in her career as a TV commentator.

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