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US ambassador calls on Vatican to join Western condemnation of Russia

June 10, 2015, 19:45 UTC+3 MILAN
US ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth Hackett voiced the West's traditional assertions about the alleged presence of Russian military units in Ukraine
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Pope Francis and Kenneth Hackett

Pope Francis and Kenneth Hackett

© EPA/OSSERVATORE ROMANO

MILAN, June 10. /TASS/. US ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth Hackett, has called on the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church to condemn Russia's policy towards the crisis in Ukraine along with the West.

The Vatican "could say more about concerns on the territorial integrity," he said on Wednesday, hours before a meeting between Pope Francis and visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Hackett voiced the West's traditional assertions about the alleged presence of Russian military units in Ukraine and the support that Moscow was giving to self-defence forces in the self-proclaimed unrecognized Donetsk and Luhansk republics.

"It does seem that Russia is supporting the insurgents [fighters of self-defence units — TASS] and it does seem that Russian troops are inside Ukraine," the ambassador said. "So this is a very serious situation and I believe that the G7 has pretty well decided that they are going to continue the (anti-Russian) sanctions," Hacket said.

"Maybe this is an opportunity for the Holy Father to privately raise those concerns," he said adding that the Pope had obviously been made aware of the violence in Ukraine.

Russian President's aide Yuri Ushakov said earlier the Ukrainian problem might be taken up during the meeting between Putin and Pope Francis.

"We expect their discussion will embrace an entire spectrum of bilateral relations and pressing international problems, including the situation in Ukraine with an accent on inter-religious relations there and the activity of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church [also known as the Catholic Church of the eastern rite — TASS]," Ushakov said.

The Greek Catholic congregation that has a largely Eastern Orthodox Christian liturgical cannon but reports to the Vatican. It is one of the major elements in a highly patchy religious landscape in Ukraine

Since the outbreak of the events on Kiev's Independence Square in December 2013, there have been numerous reports on the violent actions and attempted seizures of church buildings belonging to the Eastern Orthodox Christian communities affiliated with Moscow Patriarchate in western and central Ukraine by radically minded Greek Catholic activists.

"Quite naturally, attention will also be given at the talks to the situation that the Middle East Christians have found themselves in and to the importance of defending them," Ushakov said.

"I don't have any doubts the President will be prepared to explain for Russia's position  [on these problems] if the Pope shows interest to it," Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said. "Traditionally, conversations with the Pope concern a very broad spectrum of pressing problems and they always offer a brilliant opportunity to exchange opinions on the extremely pressing issues.".

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