Photo: Pope Francis meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the occasion of a private audience at the Vatican, on June 10, 2015 (AFP)
Pope Francis met privately with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vatican on Wednesday, using the talks to call for a sincere effort aimed at bringing peace to Ukraine.
Vatican spokesman the Rev Federico Lombardi said their talks concentrated on the Ukraine conflict and the Middle East, where the Holy See is worried about the fate of the Christian minority.
Putin earlier on Wednesday met Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in Milan and arrived an hour late to the meeting at the Vatican, his second with Francis since he became pope in 2013.
Lombardi said Francis stressed the need "to commit oneself in a sincere and great effort to bring" peace to Ukraine, through dialogue and implementation of the Minsk accords.Francis also urged access for humanitarian aid.
The United States, using diplomatic channels, had encouraged the Vatican to use the private papal audience as an occasion to join the West in condemning Moscow's actions in Ukraine.
The US ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth Hackett, said the U.S. would like to see the Vatican increase its concern about what is happening in Ukraine during the pope's meeting with Putin.
"We think they could say something more about concern of territorial integrity, those types of issues," Hackett told reporters. "It does seem that Russia is supporting the insurgents. And it does seem that there are Russian troops inside Ukraine. This is a very serious situation."
Earlier on Wednesday, however, Putin won lavish praise from Renzi as a crucial player in international anti-terrorism efforts, as Renzi sought the Russian president's help in ending the conflict in Libya that has fueled the Mediterranean migrant crisis.
Renzi greeted Putin as Russia's "dear" president and didn't voice any criticism against the country's actions in Ukraine, saying simply that they both agreed there must be full implementation of the Minsk peace accord.Renzi met Putin after a tour of Russia's pavilion at Milan's Expo.
At a brief Russian-Italian news conference in Milan, Putin stressed the price Italian businesses are paying for the economic sanctions lodged by the European Union against Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine during the conflict.Putin noted how several infrastructure projects, won in bidding by Italian companies, were stalled because of sanctions against some Russian financial institutions.
From the Statesman of Oct. 9 /2015