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MOSCOW, June 9. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to clarify Russia’s position on Ukraine at a meeting with the Pope, if he is interested in that, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.
"If the Pope demonstrates interest, I have no doubts the president will be ready to clarify Russia’s position in detail," he told journalists when asked whether the situation in Ukraine would be among topics for discussion at a forthcoming meeting.
"Traditionally, a wide range of topical issues is addressed at meeting with the Pope. Obviously, it is a perfect possibility to exchange views on the most pressing problems," he said.
Earlier, Russian president’s aide Yuri Ushakov told journalists the situation in Ukraine might be a possible subject raised at Putin’s meeting with Pope Francis. "It is planned to discuss a whole range of bilateral ties, and also the topical international issues, in particular, the situation in Ukraine with the focus on the interreligious relations and the activity of Ukraine’s Catholics," Ushakov said. ""Of course, they will talk the situation of Christians in the Middle East and the need to protect their interests." The presidential aide told reporters that the particular issues to be discussed "will depend on the course of the conversation."
The issues mentioned above are the "most topical topics that may be touched upon," Ushakov said, adding that he could not comment now "in what form they will be discussed."
"I think they will discuss further possible contacts. Whether the issue of the Pope’s visit [to Russia] will be brought up I don’t know, since this issue concerns not only state [relations], but also the church," Ushakov told reporters, adding that church relations were the domain of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill.
Ushakov noted that this would be Putin’s second meeting with Pope Francis. They met for the first time in November 2013.
"Such contacts are becoming a good tradition," a senior Vatican prelate told TASS, commenting on reports about the forthcoming meeting. He added that the pontiff "was following Russia’s policy with great attention, balanced approach and good will and would be glad to exchange views with the Russian leader."
The press office of the Holy See said that the papal audience for the Russian President in the Apostolic Palace also provided for Putin’s meeting with Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
While in Italy, presidents of Russia traditionally visit Vatican. Putin met with Pope John Paul II twice (on June 5, 2000, and on November 6, 2003). He met with Pope Benedict XVI on March 13, 2006, and with Pope Francis in November 2013. In 2009 and in 2011, Dmitry Medvedev, the then Russian President, had meeting with the Pope.
Russia’s Catholic community has about 600,000 believers. In 2014, the Pope and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia exchanged messages for the first time in the entire history of the two churches. Russian Orthodox and Catholic bishops exchange visits on a regular basis.