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Pope Francis criticizes Russia for its cruelty in Ukraine

ROME – Pope Francis has inflicted a new series of heavy blows on Russia over its actions in Ukraine, saying its forces have been brutal, ruthless and ferocious, while praising “courageous” Ukrainians for their fight to survive.

But in the transcript of a conversation he had last month with Jesuit media editors and published on Tuesday, he also said the situation was not black and white and that the war “may have been provoked in some way.”

While condemning “the ferocity and brutality of the Russian forces, we must not forget the real problems if we are to solve them,” Francis said, including the arms industry among the factors that provide incentives for war.

“It is also true that the Russians thought it would be over in a week. But they miscalculated. They met brave people, a people struggling for survival with a history of struggle.”

A multiple rocket launcher of the militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic was launched from its position in the vicinity of Pantelemonivka, in the area under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine.
AP
A woman escapes from a house that caught fire after a bombing in Donetsk.
A woman escapes from a house that caught fire after a bombing in Donetsk.
AP

Francis said that several months before President Vladimir Putin sent his forces into Ukraine, the Pope met a head of state who expressed concern that NATO was “barking at Russia’s doors” in a way that could lead to war.

Then Francis said in his own words, “We don’t see the full drama unfolding behind this war, which in some way may have been either provocative or not been prevented.”

Asking himself rhetorically if that made him “pro-Putin,” he replied, “No, I am not. It would be simplistic and wrong to say such a thing.”

A Ukrainian soldier patrols a village near the front line in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine.
A Ukrainian soldier patrols a village near the front line in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine.
AP
Ukrainian tanks moving in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian tanks moving in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
AP

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