Pope says Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was ‘perhaps in some way provoked’

Pope Francis has said the war in Ukraine was “perhaps in some way provoked or not impeded”.

While condemning “the ferocity, the cruelty of Russian troops”, he said “we must not forget the real problems if we want them to be solved” – including the armaments industry among the factors that provide incentives for war.

The pope praised “brave” Ukrainians for fighting for survival and to protect their land, but said the situation was not black and white and that the war was “perhaps in some way provoked”.

In the transcript of a conversation, published by the Jesuit journal Civilta Cattolica, the pope added that the war has also violated a country’s right to self-determination.

“It is also true that the Russians thought it would all be over in a week. But they miscalculated. They encountered a brave people, a people who are struggling to survive and who have a history of struggle,” Francis said.

“This is what moves us: to see such heroism. I would really like to emphasise this point, the heroism of the Ukrainian people. What is before our eyes is a situation of world war, global interests, arms sales and geopolitical appropriation, which is martyring a heroic people,” he said.

Separately, Francis lamented that Ukraine had been added to a list of regional wars, in a message for the Roman Catholic Church’s upcoming World Day of the Poor.

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“Yet here the situation is even more complex due to the direct intervention of a ‘superpower’ aimed at imposing its own will in violation of the principle of the self-determination of peoples,” he said.

Pope is not ‘pro-Putin’

Elsewhere in the conversation with the Jesuit editors, the pope said that before Russia’s invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin had met with a head of state who expressed concern that NATO was “barking at the gates of Russia” in a way that could lead to war.

He continued: “We do not see the whole drama unfolding behind this war, which was perhaps somehow either provoked or not prevented”.

Rhetorically asking himself if that made him “pro-Putin”, he said: “No, I am not. It would be simplistic and wrong to say
such a thing”.

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The pope also noted Russia’s “monstrous” use of Chechen and Syrian mercenaries in its war in Ukraine.

Russia continues to call the invasion of its neighbour a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists.

Ukraine and western countries claim the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.

Ukraine has also continued to plead with western powers for more weapons to help defend its remaining territory in the Donbas.

The pope said he was hoping to meet Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill at an inter-religious event in Kazakhstan in September.

The pair had been due to meet in Jerusalem in June but that trip was cancelled due to the war.

Kirill, a close ally of Mr Putin, has expressed his support for Russian troops in Ukraine.

Last month, Francis said that Kirill could not become “Putin’s altar boy”, prompting a protest from the Russian Orthodox Church.

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