Ukraine rejects pope’s call to ‘raise the white flag’ to end Russia’s war

0
8
Pope Francis [File: Vatican Media/­Handout via Reuters]

The Catholic leader, 87, told a Swiss broadcaster that Ukraine should negotiate with Russia and raised the idea of surrender.

Ukraine has rejected Pope Francis’s call to hold negotiations with Russia more than two years into its invasion, saying that Kyiv will “never” surrender.

“Our flag is a yellow and blue one. This is the flag by which we live, die, and prevail. We shall never raise any other flags,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on social media Sunday, a day after the pope said Kyiv should “have the courage to raise the white flag”.

The 87-year-old Catholic leader said in an interview with Swiss broadcaster RTS that Ukraine should negotiate with Russia, which has seized large swathes of Ukrainian territory since it launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

In part of the interview released on Saturday, the Catholic leader raised the prospect of surrender.

“I believe that the strongest are those who see the situation, think about the people, and have the courage to raise the white flag and negotiate,” Pope Francis said in an interview that the Vatican said was conducted in early February.

Kuleba called on the pope to stand “on the side of good” and not put the opposing sides “on the same footing and call it ‘negotiations’”.

Kuleba also appeared to reference some Catholic church collaboration with Nazi forces during World War II when he said the following: “At the same time, when it comes to the white flag, we know this Vatican strategy from the first half of the 20th century.”

“I urge to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and to support Ukraine and its people in their just struggle for their lives,” Kuleba added.

He also thanked Pope Francis for his “constant prayers for peace” and said Kyiv hoped he would visit Ukraine.

“We continue to hope that after two years of devastating war in the heart of Europe, the Pontiff will find an opportunity to pay an Apostolic visit to Ukraine to support over a million Ukrainian Catholics, over five million Greek-Catholics and all Ukrainians,” Kuleba said.

The foreign minister of Poland, a vocal ally of Kyiv, also condemned the pope’s remarks.

“How about, for balance, encouraging Putin to have the courage to withdraw his army from Ukraine? Peace would immediately ensue without the need for negotiations,” Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said in a post on X.

In a separate post, Sikorski made parallels between those calling for negotiations while “denying [Ukraine] the means to defend itself” and European leaders’ “appeasement” of Adolf Hitler before World War II.

Andrii Yurash, Ukraine’s ambassador to the Holy See, compared the pope’s comments to calls for “talking with Hitler” while raising “a white flag to satisfy him”.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, also said Sunday that surrender is not on the minds of Ukrainians.

“Ukraine is wounded, but unconquered! Ukraine is exhausted, but it stands and will endure. Believe me, it never crosses anyone’s mind to surrender. Even where there is fighting today: listen to our people in Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Odesa, Kharkiv, Sumy,” he said.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni later clarified that the pope supported “a stop to hostilities [and] a truce achieved with the courage of negotiations”, rather than an outright Ukrainian surrender.

While Pope Francis has tried to maintain the Vatican’s traditional diplomatic neutrality, he has also expressed some sympathy with the Russian rationale for invading Ukraine, such as when he noted that NATO was “barking at Russia’s door” with its eastward expansion.

Ukraine has remained steadfast on not engaging directly with Russia on peace talks, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy saying multiple times that peace negotiations must come from the country that has been invaded.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here