Zelensky visited the Pope in the Vatican

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From Rome

For the first time since the war with Russia began in February 2022, Volodomir Zelensky visited Rome on Saturday for a series of meetings with members of the Italian government and Pope Francis at the Vatican. The main theme was war and the chances of peace, but also weapons and the support Ukraine is grateful to Italy for.. The Ukrainian president said he was in favor of a peace that should provide for “justice over the entire territory” of Ukraine, in a tacit allusion to the regions occupied by Russia.

Zelensky’s visit was only announced on Friday and the times and locations of meetings with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and Pope Francis were kept largely secret until Saturday.

Security measures in Rome were very strict with inspections in underground areas and streets of the historic center, where the government headquarters that Zelensky visited are located: they removed garbage containers and parked cars. Police and carabinieri invaded the city, making special controls while helicopters flew over the center. Rome was declared a “no fly zone” and snipers were located at strategic points.

Zelensky’s plane landed at Rome’s Ciampino military airport shortly after 10:15 a.m. He was awaited by Forza Italia foreign minister Antonio Tajani, the Ukrainian ambassador to Italy Yaroslav Melnok and the Italian ambassador to Kiev. , Pier Francesco Zazo. “Italy welcomes the President of Ukraine. We renew our commitment together with the Ukrainian people, in defense of freedom and democracy,” Tajani wrote on Twitter..

Zelensky boarded an armored car to his hotel and in the evening met with President Mattarella at the Quirinale Palace. Passing through Barberini Square, dozens of Ukrainians raised his flag and shouted greetings.

With the Italian executive power

“It is an honor for us that you have come to Rome. We are fully on your side. Welcome president,” Mattarella said upon receiving Zelensky. And he added: “I once again confirm Italy’s full support for Ukraine at the level of military, humanitarian and reconstruction aid. At stake is not only the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine, but also the freedom of the peoples and the international order (…) the peace for which we all work must resume justice and international law. It must be a true peace and not a surrender.”

“I am here to thank Italy – Zelesnky replied – I would like to be able to embrace all Italians, one by one, for the support that they have continuously given us and that has not changed despite the change of government. With Italy we have common values. We are for peace, our victory is peace. We are open to all international contributions, but we are suffering the war in our territory and peace must provide justice throughout our territory”.

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Both leaders spoke of the effectiveness of the economic sanctions against Russia, the situation of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, the bombing of civilian structures and the kidnapping of Ukrainian children by Russia, which President Mattarella defined as “a terrible and shameful”.

In the meeting with Prime Minister Meloni, leader of the right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party, both spoke in English, without interpreters. Meloni said “we will continue to provide support, including military support, so that Ukraine can enter the negotiations with a strong position. This is important because peace cannot be achieved if there is surrender. Peace will only come when Russia ends the attacks ”.

Zelensky, who had greeted Meloni with a big hug and kisses, further said that “Europe is very important to us. We will respect all the indications required to be able to enter the European Union”. In June last year, the EU granted Ukraine the status of a “candidate country” to join. However, that country has to meet a series of conditions, above all at a political and economic level, which for now it is not in a position to achieve.

“Georgia, thank you for the opportunity to be in this beautiful country with a great history and thank you for welcoming the citizens of Ukraine. I will never forget it,” the Ukrainian president said.

in the vatican

On Saturday afternoon, Zelensky met Pope Francis, who greeted him standing at the door of the Vatican’s tiny Paul VI Hall. Zelensky put a hand on his heart and bowed his head, dressed very simply: gray pants and a long-sleeved black pullover.

The president and pope spoke with the help of an interpreter, a Ukrainian Franciscan priest whose parents live in kyiv’s underground shelters. Zelensky and Francisco discussed the humanitarian and political situation in Ukraine. According to the Vatican press office, “both agreed on the need to continue humanitarian efforts to support the population. The Pope stressed in particular the urgent need for ‘peace gestures’ with respect to the most fragile people, innocent victims of the conflict”.

It is known that Pope Francis wants to stop the war. At the beginning of the war he began to attempt peace negotiations with the Russian ambassador to the Vatican and also with the Russian Orthodox Church. But it was not a great success although some sources close to the Vatican maintain that the attempts continue secretly anyway.

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