Zelenskyy to meet with Pope Francis at Vatican in Rome visit

AP , Saturday 13 May 2023

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy is making a trip to Rome and he will meet with Pope Francis and Italian leaders on Saturday, the Vatican said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during a press conference with the prime ministers of Belgium and the Netherlands at the Catshuis in The Hague, on May 4, 2023. AFP


Zelenskyy will hold midday meetings with Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, who staunchly backs the military and other aid for Ukraine and President Sergio Mattarella.

Zelenskyy’s exact schedule wasn’t being publicly announced because of security concerns, and the Vatican only confirmed a papal meeting shortly before the Ukrainian president's expected arrival in Rome.

Italian state television reported that as part of protective measures, a no-fly zone was ordered for Rome skies and police sharpshooters were strategically placed on high buildings.

Meloni met with Zelenskyy in Kyiv shortly before the anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.

Francis, eager for peace, last met with the Ukrainian leader in 2020.

The pontiff makes frequent impassioned pleas on behalf of Ukraine's “martyred" people, in his words.

At the end of April, flying back to Rome from a trip to Hungary, Francis told reporters on the plane that the Vatican was involved in a behind-the-scene peace mission but gave no details. Neither Russia nor Ukraine has confirmed such an initiative.

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

The announcement Saturday came as preparations were underway in Berlin for a possible first visit to Germany by Zelenskyy since Russia invaded his country last year.

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Berlin wants to show with the latest package of arms “that Germany is serious in its support” for Ukraine.

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

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