Pope Francis has taken a new series of swipes at Russia for its actions in Ukraine, saying its troops were brutal, cruel and ferocious, while praising “brave” Ukrainians for fighting for survival.
But in the text of a conversation he had last month with editors of Jesuit media and published on Tuesday, he also said the situation was not black and white and that the war was “perhaps in some way provoked”.
While condemning “the ferocity, the cruelty of Russian troops, we must not forget the real problems if we want them to be solved,” Francis said, including the armaments industry among the factors that provide incentives for war.
“It is also true that the Russians thought it would all be over in a week. But they miscalculated. They encountered a brave people, a people who are struggling to survive and who have a history of struggle,” he said.
Francis said that several months before President Vladimir Putin sent his forces into Ukraine, the pontiff had met with a head of state who expressed concern that NATO was “barking at the gates of Russia” in a way that could lead to war.
Francis then said in his own words: “We do not see the whole drama unfolding behind this war, which was perhaps somehow either provoked or not prevented”.
Asking himself rhetorically if that made him “pro-Putin,” he said, “No, I am not. It would be simplistic and wrong to say such a thing”.