Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Pope Francis Wednesday at the Vatican. Photo courtesy of National Catholic Register/ncregister.com
VATICAN CITY, June 11 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin, arriving 70 minutes late to the Vatican, met with Pope Francis and was told to commit to peace in Ukraine.
The one-on-one meeting between the two leaders Wednesday got off to a late start because of delays in getting from Milan, where Putin visited a trade exposition, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Putin has a reputation for arriving late to meetings; he was 50 minutes late to his 2013 meeting with the Pope, regarded as a serious breach of diplomatic etiquette.
The Pope and Putin sat on opposite sides of a desk in the Pope's Apostolic Palace and spoke in German. Ukraine, where Russia has been accused of encouraging a rebellion, was the focus of the talk.
"The Holy Father stated the need to commit to a sincere and great effort to achieve peace, and it was agreed it was important to rebuild a climate of dialogue and that all parties commit to enforce the Minsk accords," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement, referring to a ceasefire agreement signed in February.
The Pope also demanded access of humanitarian aid workers to Ukraine, as well as peace in the Middle East. He emphasized the special difficulties of Christians in the region.
The one-hour meeting ended with a medallion, depicting an angel of peace, presented to Putin. Peskov called the meeting "very friendly," but it was clearly not a condemnation of Russian involvement in Crimea and Ukraine, which many in the Greek Catholic Church urged. Although the Pope has spoken forcefully in the past for peace, he has never mentioned Russia by name despite recommendation he involve himself more persuasively in the peace process.