Russian President Vladimir Putin may have been provoked into launching an attack against Ukraine by NATO’s eastward expansion, Pope Francis said on Tuesday in an interview published by Italian daily Corriere Della Sera.
The pontiff had previously been criticized for not directly censuring Russia in the earliest days of the attack, believes that Kremlin could have been driven by NATO’s barking at Russia’s door into launching the military campaign.
He said that he had asked the Vatican’s top diplomat to contact the Russian president about setting up a meeting with him about three weeks into the conflict but has still not received a reply.
Pope Francis expressed fear that Putin cannot, nor does he wants to have this meeting at this time, wondering how one cannot stop so much brutality, condemning it and comparing it to 1990s Rwanda’s civil war which resulted in a genocide of the Tutsi minority.
However, he ruled out going to Kyiv for now, insisting that he must first go to Moscow and meet Putin.
After he had canceled a meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, as they both thought it would look ambiguous, the pontiff had spoken with Kirill – who justified Russia’s offensive in Ukraine – for 40 minutes via Zoom warning him against becoming Putin’s altar boy.
He also noted that Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister of Hungary, had assured him that Putin plans to end the war on May 9, when Russia celebrates its victory over Nazi Germany.
In line with the Vatican’s foreign policy of keeping the door open for possible dialogue, Pope Francis called in March for a different way of governing the world, urging the civilization to overcome its reflexive need for more weapons, sanctions, and political-military alliances.
He has repeatedly criticized the invasion of Ukraine but always without naming Putin explicitly.
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