Kyiv Slams Pope’s ‘White Flag’ Call, Vows No Surrender To Russia

Ukraine rejected Pope Francis’ demand to talk with Russia two years into its invasion on Sunday, pledging “never” to surrender after the pontiff urged Kyiv should “have the courage to raise the white flag”.

The 87-year-old Catholic leader sparked outrage in Kyiv last weekend after saying in an interview that Ukraine should talk with Russia, which has captured huge sections of its territory during the onslaught.

It is not the first time Pope Francis has made a statement that has sparked indignation in Ukraine during the Russian invasion. Russia has also criticized the pope’s words.

“We have a yellow and blue flag. This is the flag under which we live, die, and succeed. “We will never raise any other flags,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba declared.

He was replying to the Pope’s interview with Swiss network RTS, in which the Catholic leader mentioned the possibility of surrender, two years after Kyiv fought Russian forces on its soil.

“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 the Vatican said was conducted in early February.

In a sign of how angered Kyiv was, Ukrainian officials compared the statement to some of the Catholic church collaborating with Nazi Germany in World War II.

“At the same time, when it comes to the white flag, we know this Vatican strategy from the first half of the 20th century,” Kuleba said, calling on the Holy See to “avoid repeating the mistakes of the past”.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican, Andrii Yurash, went further by comparing the Pope’s negotiation suggestion to talking to Adolf Hitler:

“(The) lesson is only one — if we want to finish war, we have to do everything to kill (the) Dragon!,” he said on social media.

After the interview was aired, Francis offered fresh prayers for “martyred Ukraine”, as Vatican officials said his call was simply intended to end fierce fighting.

Kyiv hopes Francis will visit

On Saturday evening, the Vatican published a statement explaining that the pope’s use of the phrase “white flag” – a frequently used gesture of surrender on the battlefield — was intended to represent “a cessation of hostilities, a truce reached with the courage of negotiation”.

However, the pontiff’s statements were widely interpreted as a call to surrender, and several Western officials reacted harshly.

“Russia is the aggressor, violating international law! Therefore, Germany begs Moscow to cease the war, not Kyiv!” stated Bernhard Kotsch, Germany’s envoy to the Vatican.

Kuleba said Kyiv hoped Francis would visit his war-torn country after more than two years of fighting its larger neighbour.

“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,” he stated.

Francis faced criticism in the months following Russia’s February 2022 invasion for failing to identify Moscow as the aggressor.

He was also chastised by Ukraine last year for allegedly praising Russian imperial leaders Peter the Great and Catherine II.

The pontiff also sparked outrage in Russia when he stated in January 2022 that its “cruellest” forces in Ukraine were “not of the Russian tradition,” but rather minorities like as “the Chechens, the Buryats, and so on.”

The Vatican then issued an official apology to Moscow.

Last year, Pope Francis appointed a high-ranking cardinal to try to broker peace in Ukraine, who has visited Moscow, Kyiv, Washington, and Beijing.

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