Russia backs Pope’s peace efforts
Russia welcomes initiatives from Pope Francis aimed at achieving a lasting peace in Ukraine, but has noted Kiev’s apparent reluctance to consider such calls, according to Moscow’s envoy to the Vatican, Ivan Soltanovsky.
Pope Francis has repeatedly urged a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine conflict throughout the hostilities. In his latest Christmas address, he once again implored peace between Moscow and Kiev, as well as in the Middle East and other conflict zones, calling on humanity to say “no” to war and cease weapons manufacturing. “How can we even speak of peace, when arms production, sales and trade are on the rise?” the pontiff asked.
Moscow has backed the Vatican’s calls, and Soltanovsky told RIA Novosti on Thursday that “for our part, we welcome any initiatives that could bring closer the achievement of a strong and lasting peace in Ukraine, especially when they come from such authoritative leaders as Francis.”
However, Soltanovsky claimed that “practice has shown” that Kiev only respects the opinions of politicians who are “interested not in stopping hostilities, but in inflating it by pumping Ukraine with weapons and ammunition.”
The envoy also said Kiev has effectively “tied its own hands” by banning negotiations with the current Russian leadership. In October 2022, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky signed a decree that made it illegal for Kiev to hold talks with Moscow while Vladimir Putin is in power.
Russia, meanwhile, has repeatedly signaled that it remains open to holding peace talks, as long as Kiev acknowledges Moscow’s interests and accepts the “new realities on the ground,” referring to the former Ukrainian regions that overwhelmingly voted to officially become part of Russia.
In an interview with CBS News earlier this week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated that Russia is prepared to listen to anyone interested in establishing “justice” in relations between Moscow and Kiev. Russia will also discuss any “serious proposal” that addresses the situation on the ground and the root causes of the conflict, he added.
Lavrov stressed, however, that for such talks to happen, the West would have to stop its policy of using Ukraine as “an instrument of war against Russia,” recalling Moscow’s long-standing concerns about NATO expansion.
Officials from Moscow and Kiev recently revealed that the two sides were close to reaching a peace deal early in the Ukraine conflict. However, the process was reportedly derailed by then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who allegedly convinced Ukraine to continue fighting.