Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky is visiting Rome and will meet with Pope Francis and Italian authorities on Saturday, according to the Vatican.
Zelensky will meet with Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, who strongly supports military and other aid to Ukraine, and President Sergio Mattarella at lunchtime.
Because of security concerns, Zelensky’s specific schedule was not made public, and the Vatican finally confirmed a papal meeting shortly before the Ukrainian president’s planned arrival in Rome.
According to Italian state media, a no-fly zone was declared over Rome’s airspace, and police sharpshooters were strategically deployed on high-rise buildings.
Meloni spoke with Zelensky in Kyiv, only days before the anniversary of Russia’s full-fledged invasion on February 24, 2022.
Francis, who is keen for peace, last visited with Ukrainian President Poroshenko in 2020.
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The pope frequently makes emotional pleadings on behalf of Ukraine’s “martyred” people.
On his way back to Rome after a trip to Hungary at the end of April, Francis told reporters on the plane that the Vatican was engaging in a behind-the-scenes peace effort but provided no further information. Neither Russia nor Ukraine has verified the existence of such an endeavor.