Zelensky asks the Pope to join his peace plan and condemn Russian crimes

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Dressed in his military sweatshirt, the Ukrainian president, Volodímir Zelensky, went to the Vatican this Saturday to meet with Pope Francis and ask him to join his peace plan so that Russia abandons all Ukrainian positions. They had seen it was in 2020, but then he was wearing a suit. The circumstances were very different. It was the Ukrainian president's first trip to Rome since the war broke out in the country, a visit that comes a few days after the Pontiff, on his return from an apostolic visit to Hungary, revealed that there was a secret peace mission underway. for the conflict.

Zelenski assured only landing that the one in Rome was "an important visit" for the victory. The most anticipated moment was the audience with Francisco, who thanked him for his visit. “It is a great honor,” replied the Ukrainian president. The meeting lasted about 40 minutes, according to the Vatican press office, and in it they discussed the "humanitarian and political situation in Ukraine, caused by the war."

Zelenski, on his arrival at the Vatican


The official statement, concise as usual, recalled that Francis constantly prays for peace in the country, a prayer that has been seen "in his many public appeals and in his continuous invocation to the Lord for peace" since February of last year. . Both, the note ended, agreed on the need to continue humanitarian efforts to support the population. "The Pope has underlined in particular the urgent need for gestures of humanity towards the most fragile people, innocent victims of the conflict."

Zelensky's version was slightly different. According to what he published on his social networks, the Ukrainian asked the Argentine pope to condemn the crimes in Ukraine, because "there can be no equality between the victim and the aggressor." The phrase evokes the equidistance line initially chosen by Pope Francis, who, although he has condemned Russian atrocities in the country on several occasions – he has come to compare them with the crimes against Ukraine during the Soviet period – initially he refused to openly name Putin as the aggressor in order to keep the dialogue open with the Kremlin. “I also spoke of our peace formula as the only effective algorithm to achieve a just peace. I proposed to him to join that implementation," Zelensky said, speaking of the plan that includes Russia withdrawing all its troops and reaffirming Ukraine's territorial integrity. “As the war is on Ukrainian territory, the peace plan should be Ukrainian only,” he later added on Telegram.

The meeting is significant for several reasons. From the beginning of the conflict, the Vatican wanted to present itself as a possible mediator, and had already spoken to Zelenski on the phone on several occasions, to no avail. Yes, it has been known that Vatican diplomacy has mediated for the exchange of prisoners and is available to help the thousands of children forcibly deported to Russia to return to Ukraine. And, at the end of April, returning from Budapest, Francis assured at the press conference on the papal plane that the Vatican is involved in a secret peace "mission" that "is not yet public," he said, without elaborating. Then, Kyiv denied knowing the ins and outs of this alleged mission and now, Vatican sources told the Russian agency Tass that Zelensky's visit was not "directly related" to it, and that the Ukrainian requested an audience with the Pontiff only a few days ago. .

The meeting was also very symbolic. As tradition dictates, there was an exchange of gifts. The Ukrainian gave the Jesuit pope a work of art made with a bulletproof shield and a painting titled 'Loss' that symbolizes the murder of children during the war. Bergoglio responded with a bronze relief representing an olive branch, a symbol of peace.

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The stop at the Vatican with Pope Francis was the main reason for the trip of the Ukrainian president, Volodimir Zelenski, to Rome, the first stop on his trip before arriving this Sunday in Germany to receive the Charlemagne prize in the city of Aachen. The president took the opportunity to also meet with the Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, and with the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, who reminded him of Italy's full support for the Ukrainian cause.


The Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, together with Zelenski in Chigi Palace, seat of the Italian Executive


After some initial doubts about the attacks of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, an old friend of Vladimir Putin, on Zelenski, Meloni – who has the approval of the White House – demonstrated again yesterday that the new Italian government has not changed the course set by the former prime minister, Mario Draghi. The leader of the Brothers of Italy showed her maximum harmony with the Ukrainian and said several times that Italy will not budge by demanding a "just" peace for Ukraine and by continuing to send arms for as long as necessary.

“You cannot achieve peace with a surrender. It would be a serious precedent for all the nations of the world”, he indicated, in a country where polls show that the majority of Italians do not want to continue sending arms. “We will continue with military support so that they can come to the negotiating table with a solid position. The opposite would be dangerous for peace in Europe”, stressed Meloni, who recalled that Italy supports Kyiv's entry into the EU and is in favor of its becoming included in NATO.

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The meeting, which lasted about 70 minutes and ended with a joint appearance before the press at Palacio Chigi, the seat of the Italian Executive, is the second that Meloni and Zelenski have held after the Italian traveled to the Ukrainian capital at the end of February, when she invited to Rome. In this appearance, the Ukrainian assured that the children deported by force to Russia could be "at least" 200,000. “And we don't know their fate,” he declared, only that the Kremlin “teaches them to hate” Ukraine.

Before, Zelenski had been received with military honors by the head of the Italian State, Sergio Mattarella, a convinced defender of the Atlantic alliance. “We are fully by his side. Welcome, President”, the President of the Republic told him, who also insisted that true peace cannot be a surrender. "Italy is on the right side, on the side of the truth in this war," celebrated the Ukrainian president, who was grateful to be received with flags from his country by some Ukrainian refugees in the streets, despite the rain.

The helicopters have not stopped ringing in a fully armored Rome. A thousand agents were deployed with a no-fly zone, several sniper teams were placed in Zelenski's planned route, there were anti-terrorist units, controls at stations and airports, anti-bomb squads, and they even checked the sewage system.

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