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Pope Francis Highlights ‘Sad Anniversary’ of Russia’s Ukraine Invasion

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Sunday, 26 February, 2023, 18:18
Pope Francis Highlights ‘Sad Anniversary’ of Russia’s Ukraine Invasion

Pope Francis Wednesday noted what he called the “sad anniversary” of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Speaking during his weekly general audience, the pope called the conflict an “absurd and cruel war.”

"Let us remain close to the martyred Ukrainian people and ask ourselves: has everything possible been done to stop the war?” the pope said. “I appeal to those in authority over nations to make concrete efforts to end the conflict, to reach a cease-fire and to start peace negotiations.”

Pope Francis has repeatedly called for peace since Russia sent its troops into Ukraine on February 24 last year. The day before the invasion, he urged all parties to avoid any actions that would cause people more suffering and said the threat of war had brought “great pain in my heart.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Tuesday accused Russia of "mercilessly killing" civilians in the southern city of Kherson following a missile strike that left five people dead and 16 others injured.

"A vehicle park, residential areas, a high-rise building, and a public transport stop were hit," Zelenskyy said on the Telegram social messaging app. "The Russian army is heavily shelling Kherson. Again, mercilessly killing the civilian population.”

"The world has no right to forget for a single moment that Russian cruelty and aggression know no bounds,” the Ukrainian leader said. He posted photographs online showing corpses lying in the street.

Russia has denied targeting civilians.

Ukraine recaptured Kherson in November after eight months of Russian occupation, forcing Russian forces to abandon the only regional capital they had seized since invading Ukraine on February 24 of last year. But Moscow’s shelling of the city continues.

Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, said Russian troops had targeted the city "probably by Grad" multiple rocket-launchers and that 20 explosions were heard.

The attack came as Russian President Vladimir Putin was defending the invasion in a speech before the Russian parliament in Moscow, and a day after U.S. President Joe Biden made a historic visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, to assure Zelenskyy of the continued support of the United States and its Western allies.