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Pope Francis ‘begs’ Putin to stop ‘spiral of violence and death’

The Pope condemns the annexation of four Ukrainian regions by Russia and asks President Zelenskyy to be open to any “serious peace proposal.”

Pope Francis has for the first time called directly on Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the “spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine, saying he is being followed by “rivers of blood and tears.”

The head of the Catholic Church also condemned the annexation of four regions of Ukraine, saying it risks nuclear escalation and urged Putin to think of his own people during a speech dedicated to Ukraine in Saint Peter’s Square.

A Vatican official said the impassioned speech was so somber it was reminiscent of a radio call for peace by Pope John XXIII in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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Francis has often condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the death it has caused, but it was the first time he made a direct personal appeal to Putin.

“My appeal goes above all to the President of the Russian Federation, begging him to stop this spiral of violence and death, even out of love for his own people,” Francis said.

He also asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to consider proposals to stop the fighting.

“On the other hand, hurt by the enormous suffering of the Ukrainian population after the aggression it suffered, I address an equally hopeful appeal to the President of Ukraine to open up to a serious peace proposal,” he said.

He called urgently “in the name of God” for an end to the conflict and said it was “absurd” for the world to risk nuclear conflict.

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Francis later tweeted the appeals to the two leaders in Russian and Ukrainian.

Two days ago, Putin proclaimed the annexation of four partially occupied Ukrainian regions, calling residents of Ukraine’s occupied Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions “our citizens forever.”

Ukraine and Western allies have condemned the annexation as illegal, and Kyiv has said it will continue to fight to regain all occupied Ukrainian territory.

Russia vetoed a UN resolution that would have declared its referendums “invalid” and urged all countries not to recognize any “alleged annexation” of the territory by Moscow.

‘Unspeakable suffering’

Ukraine claimed full control of the eastern Lyman logistics hub on Sunday, Kyiv’s most significant battlefield gain in weeks.

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“I strongly regret the serious situation that has been created in recent days, with more actions contrary to the principles of international law,” Francis said in a clear reference to annexation.

In a reference to ethnic Russians living in Ukraine, Francis said it was also necessary to respect “the rights of minorities and [their] legitimate concerns.”

Francis said it was “distressing” that the world was learning about Ukrainian geography through place names like Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol, Izyum, Zaporizhzhia and other places where people had suffered “indescribable suffering and fear.”

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