Rome – Ukrainian President Volodymur Zelensky is in Rome and will meet with Pope Francis and Italian leaders on Saturday, the Vatican said.
President Zelensky will meet at noon with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who is a firm supporter of military and other aid to Ukraine, and President Sergio Mattarella.
President Zelensky’s exact schedule was not made public due to security concerns, and the Vatican only allowed the papal conference to take place shortly before the Ukrainian president was due to arrive in Rome.
Italian state television reported that a no-fly zone had been ordered over Rome as part of protective measures, with police snipers strategically placed on skyscrapers.
Mr. Meloni met with Mr. Zelensky in Kiev just before the anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Russia on February 24, 2022.
Peace-hungry President Francis last met with a Ukrainian leader in 2020.
The Pope is said to have made frequent and impassioned pleas on behalf of the “martyrred” people of Ukraine.
Francis, who returned to Rome from a trip to Hungary at the end of April, told reporters on the plane that the Vatican was involved in behind-the-scenes peace efforts, without elaborating. Neither Russia nor Ukraine has confirmed such efforts.
Meanwhile, Germany has announced it will provide Ukraine with additional military aid worth more than €2.7 billion ($3 billion), including tanks, anti-aircraft systems and ammunition.
Saturday’s announcement comes as preparations are underway in Berlin for President Zelensky’s possible first visit to Germany since Russia’s invasion last year.
Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Berlin wants to demonstrate Germany’s “serious support” for Ukraine with its latest weapons package.
“Germany will provide as much help as it can, as long as it takes time,” he said.
Follow the Associated Press war coverage. https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
Copyright 2023 Associated Press. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
https://www.local10.com/business/2023/05/13/zelenskyy-to-meet-with-pope-francis-at-vatican-in-rome-visit/ President Zelensky meets with Pope Francis at Vatican during Rome visit