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Pope implicitly criticises Putin on invasion, considers Kyiv trip

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Image Credits: Vatican Media/­Handout via REUTERS.

Pope Francis said on Saturday he was considering a trip to Kyiv and implicitly criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine, saying a “potentate” was fomenting conflict for nationalist interests.

Francis made the comments, first to reporters on the plane taking him to Malta for a two-day visit, and then in a hard-hitting speech in the island’s presidential palace that left little doubt who he was referring to.

“From the east of Europe, from the land of the sunrise, the dark shadows of war have now spread. We had thought that invasions of other countries, savage street fighting and atomic threats were grim memories of a distant past,” the pope said.

Moscow denies targeting civilians in the action it launched on Feb. 24, which it dubs a “special military operation” designed not to occupy territory but to demilitarise and “denazify” its neighbour. Francis has already rejected that terminology, calling it a war.

“However, the icy winds of war, which bring only death, destruction and hatred in their wake, have swept down powerfully upon the lives of many people and affected us all,” Francis said.

“Once again, some potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, is provoking and fomenting conflicts, whereas ordinary people sense the need to build a future that, will either be shared or not be at all,” he said, without mentioning Putin by name.

Francis’ voice was strong but he sat to deliver his speech. For the first time in his 36 trips abroad, a flare-up of pain in his knee had forced him to use a freight lift to board the plane in Rome and disembark in Valletta – to avoid “unnecessary strain”, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said.

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The pope, who was limping as he walked inside the presidential palace of the predominantly Catholic island, has already strongly condemned what he has called an “unjustified aggression” and denounced “atrocities” in the war. (REUTERS)

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