Pope Says NATO May Have Caused Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine – POLITICO

ROME – Pope Francis has said NATO’s “barking” at Russia’s door may have led to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine – and said he has offered to meet the Russian president in Moscow.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Corriere della SeraReflecting on Russia’s deadly aggression toward its neighbor, Francis said he might not go so far as to say that NATO’s presence in nearby countries “provoked” Moscow but “perhaps facilitated” the invasion.

Francis also condemned the “brutality” of the war, comparing it to the civil war in Rwanda in the 1990s that led to genocide against the Tutsi minority.

The Holy See has been asking for a meeting between Francis and Putin in Moscow since mid-March, the Pope said. “Of course, we needed the Kremlin’s leader to assign a time slot. We haven’t received an answer yet and we’re still trying, although I’m afraid that Putin can’t and won’t have this meeting at this point.”

In the interview, Francis initially ruled out going to Kyiv: “First I have to go to Moscow, first I have to meet Putin.”

Francis said he canceled a meeting with Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and a key Putin supporter who justified the war, because they both thought it would look “ambiguous” – but in a phone call he said , he had warned Kirill not to “turn into Putin’s acolyte”.

Since invading Ukraine, Francis has repeatedly criticized the invasion without explicitly naming Putin, in line with Vatican foreign policy of keeping the door open to possible dialogue.

The Russian Embassy to the Holy See did not immediately respond to phone calls or an emailed request for comment. A Vatican spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

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