Zelenskyj meets Pope Francis in Rome


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy held private talks with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday and later said he was seeking the pope’s support for Ukraine’s peace plan, which has in the past offered to help end the conflict full scale war launched by Russia a year ago.

Zelenskyy covered his heart and said it was a “great honor” to meet the pope. Francis, who used a cane because of his knee problem, came to greet the Ukrainian president before leading him to a papal studio near the Vatican’s audience hall.

in one tweet After the 40-minute audience, Zelenskyy thanked Pope Francis for “his personal attention to the tragedy of millions of Ukrainians.” He said he spoke to the pope “about the tens of thousands of deported (Ukrainian) children. We must make every effort to bring them back home.”

Pope Francis meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Pope Francis meets with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Paul VI’s studio on May 13, 2023. in Vatican City.

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Zelenskyy also said that he asked the Pope for condemnation Russian “crimes in Ukraine” because “there can be no equality between victim and aggressor”.

“I also spoke about our peace formula as the only effective algorithm for achieving a just peace,” Zelenskyy said. Later, in an interview on Italian state television, the Ukrainian leader said the Pope “knows my position.” War is raging in Ukraine, so Ukraine’s plan must be to bring peace.

Last month, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal asked the Pope for help in repatriating children from Russia to Ukraine. However, Saturday’s Vatican statement made no mention of this request.

Instead, the Vatican said the two men spoke about “Ukraine’s humanitarian and political situation created by the ongoing war.”

“The Pope affirmed his constant prayer, witnessed by his many public appeals and by his continued supplication of the Lord for peace since February last year,” the Vatican said, referring to the Russian invasion that began on February 24. 2022.

The meeting came as the Russian Defense Ministry announced the long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles delivered to Ukraine The UK’s attacks this week damaged unspecified civilian businesses in the Luhansk province in Ukraine’s far east. The Luhansk authorities separately said that another rocket attack hit the regional capital and injured an elderly woman.

Two Russian Mi-8 helicopters and a Su-34 fighter-bomber crashed in the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine on Saturday, state news agency Tass and a Telegram channel close to the Russian Defense Ministry reported. The newspaper Kommersant cited reports of two warplanes crashing. The causes of the crashes were not immediately disclosed, but concerns are growing in Bryansk about cross-border attacks from Ukraine.

Some Ukrainian units are pushing further near Bakhmut, the commander of Ukraine’s land forces said on Saturday, just a day after Ukrainian commanders said their troops had retaken territory at the scene of the longest and bloodiest battle of the war.

“Our soldiers are advancing in some sections of the front and the enemy is losing equipment and manpower,” Oleksandr Syrskyi said on Telegram.

Zelenskyj’s 10-point plan provides for the establishment of a special tribunal to prosecute Russian war crimes. It would also create a Euro-Atlantic security architecture with guarantees for Ukraine, restore Ukraine’s damaged energy infrastructure and ensure security around Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhia.

Earlier in the day, Zelenskyi received assurances from Italian officials of permanent military and financial support, as well as increased support for Ukraine’s cherished goal of joining the European Union.

“The message is clear and simple,” Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said after meeting Zelenskyy for more than an hour. “The future of Ukraine is a future of peace and freedom. And it is the future of Europe, a future of peace and freedom for which there are no other possible solutions.”

The prime minister, who strongly supports military aid to Ukraine, said Italy will support the country “360 degrees for the entire time required and beyond”.

Separately, Italian President Sergio Mattarella told Zelenskyi, “We stand with you wholeheartedly,” Mattarella told Zelenskyi as he greeted him. Later, sources from the presidential palace said that Mattarella assured his guest that Italy would continue to support Ukraine militarily and financially, as well as with reconstruction and humanitarian aid.

Since the war began, Italy has provided about 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in military, financial and humanitarian assistance.

Zelenskyi is believed to be traveling to Berlin next, where it will be his first visit to Germany since the beginning of the war. The exact schedule was not publicly announced for security reasons.

In late April, Francis told reporters that the Vatican was involved in a behind-the-scenes peacekeeping mission, but gave no details. Neither Russia nor Ukraine have confirmed such an initiative.

He said he would happily travel to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, if such a visit could be combined with one to Moscow in the hope that a papal pilgrimage might further the cause of peace.

There has been speculation as to whether the Vatican could play a mediating role. But in the Italian television interview on Saturday, Zelenskyy pointed out that mediation was fundamentally impossible.

“You can’t negotiate with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” he said.

The German government, meanwhile, said it is providing Ukraine with more than 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion) in additional military aid, including tanks, anti-aircraft systems and ammunition.

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Berlin wanted to use the latest arms package to show “that Germany is serious about supporting Ukraine”.

“Germany will provide all the help it can for as long as it is necessary,” he said.

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