Russia sees Pope's peace appeal as Western reassessment on Ukraine

Russia said Pope Francis's call for talks with Moscow to end the war in Ukraine was a request to Kyiv's Western allies to abandon their ambition to defeat Russi
FILE PHOTO: Rescuers work at a site of a residential building heavily damaged during a Russian missile attack, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine January 23, 2024.
FILE PHOTO: Rescuers work at a site of a residential building heavily damaged during a Russian missile attack, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine January 23, 2024. REUTERS/Sofiia Gatilova/File Photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia said Pope Francis's call for talks with Moscow to end the war in Ukraine was a request to Kyiv's Western allies to abandon their ambition to defeat Russia and to recognise the West's mistake in the Ukraine war, Italy's ANSA news agency reported.

Pope Francis has said that Ukraine should have what he called the courage of the "white flag" and negotiate an end to the war with Russia that followed Moscow's full-scale invasion two years ago and that has killed tens of thousands.

"The way I see it, the Pope is asking the West to put aside its ambitions and admit that it was wrong," the ANSA news agency quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying.

Zakharova said that the West was using Ukraine as an instrument of its ambitions to weaken Russia.

As for Russia, "we have never blocked the negotiations," she said, adding that the situation in Ukraine was "at a dead end".

Ukraine on Sunday rebuffed Pope Francis's call to negotiate an end to the war with Russia, with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy saying the pontiff was engaging in "virtual mediation" and his foreign minister saying Kyiv would never capitulate.

President Vladimir Putin sent thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022, triggering a full-scale war after eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces on the one side and pro-Russian Ukrainians and Russian proxies on the other.

Putin says that shortly after he sent troops into Ukraine, Moscow and Kyiv almost agreed a ceasefire but that it was torpedoed by Britain.

Reuters reported last month that Putin's suggestion of a ceasefire in Ukraine to freeze the war was rejected by the United States after contacts between intermediaries.

Putin casts the Ukraine war as an existential battle between sacred Russian civilisation and an arrogant West which he says is in cultural, political and economic decline and which sought to humiliate Russia after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

The West casts Putin's invasion as an imperial-style land grab that challenges the post-Cold War international order and pits Russia against the West.

Ukraine says it is fighting for its existence and will not rest until every last Russian soldier is ejected from its territory.

Zelenskiy said last week that Russia will not be invited to the first peace summit due to be held in Switzerland.

(Reporting by Reuters; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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