Russia, NATO at odds over pope’s call for Ukraine to show ‘white flag’ | Russia-Ukraine war News

Russia, NATO at odds over pope’s call for Ukraine to show ‘white flag’ | Russia-Ukraine war News

Moscow said the pope’s comment was ‘quite understandable’ while NATO said ‘it’s not the time to talk about surrender’.

The Kremlin has said Pope Francis’s call for talks to end the war in Ukraine was “quite understandable”, while NATO’s secretary general said now was not the time to talk about “surrender”.

Pope Francis said in an interview recorded last month that Ukraine should have “the courage of the white flag” to negotiate an end to a war that is now in its third year.

As Russia makes gains on the battlefield, the West grapples with how to support Ukraine and the prospect of a dramatic change in United States policy if Donald Trump wins November’s presidential election.

“It is quite understandable that he [the pope] spoke in favour of negotiations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday.

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin had repeatedly said his country was open to peace talks.

“Unfortunately, both the statements of the pope and the repeated statements of other parties, including ours, have recently received absolutely harsh refusals,” he said.

Moscow’s offers to negotiate have invariably been predicated on Kyiv giving up the territory that Moscow has seized and declared to be part of Russia, amounting to more than a sixth of Ukraine.

Peskov said Western hopes of inflicting a “strategic defeat” on Russia were “the deepest misconception”, adding: “The course of events, primarily on the battlefield, is the clearest evidence of this.”

‘Not the time to talk about surrender’: Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said negotiations that would preserve Ukraine as a sovereign and independent nation would only come when Putin realised he would not win on the battlefield.

“If we want a negotiated, peaceful, lasting solution, the way to get there is to provide military support to Ukraine,” he told the Reuters news agency at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Asked if this meant now was not the time to talk about a white flag, he said: “It’s not the time to talk about surrender by the Ukrainians. That will be a tragedy for the Ukrainians.”

“It will also be dangerous for all of us. Because then the lesson learned in Moscow is that when they use military force, when they kill thousands of people, when they invade another country, they get what they want,” he said.

Pope Zelenskyy
Pope Francis with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, at the Vatican, May 13, 2023 [Vatican Media/­Handout via Reuters]

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy dismissed Pope Francis’s call for talks with Russia as “virtual mediation” from a distance.

In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy did not directly refer to Francis or his remarks, but said the pope’s ideas had nothing to do with efforts by religious figures in Ukraine to help the country.

“They support us with prayer, with their discussion and with deeds. This is indeed what a church with the people is,” Zelenskyy said.

“Not 2,500km [1,550 miles] away, somewhere, virtual mediation between someone who wants to live and someone who wants to destroy you.”

Zelenskyy, who signed a decree in 2022 ruling out talks with Putin, said last week that Russia will not be invited to a peace summit due to be held in Switzerland.

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