Russia's stance on the conflict in Ukraine is reportedly a subject open for conversation Wednesday, when Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to sit down with Pope Francis. The Kremlin said should the pope be interested in discussing the situation, Putin would be open to talk. "If the Pope demonstrates interest, I have no doubts the president will be ready to clarify Russia’s position in detail," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said to journalists on Tuesday, according to Russian news agency TASS.
The Russian leader is set to convene with Pope Francis as a planned sidebar during a trip to Milan. It would be the second meeting between the two; the first took place in 2013. In that first meeting, which was hailed as a success by Putin, Pope Francis asked the Russian president to find a solution to the Ukraine situation without military intervention, reported Agence France-Presse. That meeting came before Russia's annexation of the Crimea peninsula and the conflict between pro-Russia separatists and Ukraine, which has killed more than 6,400. Ukrainian and Western leaders have alleged that Russia is involved in the conflict, which the Kremlin has repeatedly denied. Putin is reportedly open to discussing the issues surrounding the complex Ukraine situation at his scheduled sit-down with the pope.
"Traditionally, a wide range of topical issues is addressed at meeting with the Pope. Obviously, it is a perfect possibility to exchange views on the most pressing problems," Peskov said, according to TASS. Earlier, Yuri Ushakov, a Russian president's aide, also commented on the possibility of Ukraine talks between Putin and Pope Francis.
"It is planned to discuss a whole range of bilateral ties, and also the topical international issues, in particular, the situation in Ukraine with the focus on the interreligious relations and the activity of Ukraine’s Catholics," Ushakov said, according to TASS. He later told journalists the exact issues discussed would "depend on the course of the conversation," reported TASS,
While Putin might expect to once again hail the meeting as a success, Pope Francis apparently might not be as sympathetic an ear as the Russian president hopes. "Putin wants to throw off his status as pariah. And he hopes that will work with the pope," Boris Falikov, a Russian historian and religious studies scholar, said to AFP. Falikov told AFP he believes that is a miscalculation and that the Vatican frowns on Russia's policy in Ukraine.
A Vatican official reportedly told TASS that the pope "was following Russia’s policy with great attention, balanced approach and good will and would be glad to exchange views with the Russian leader."