Pope condemns Russian strikes on Ukraine, warns against escalation over Poland blasts

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Pope Francis on Wednesday condemned the latest wave of missile attacks on Ukraine and called for a ceasefire to avert the risk of an escalation of the conflict.

He spoke at his general audience as NATO allies were investigating unconfirmed reports that an explosion in a Polish village near the border with Ukraine was caused by stray Russian missiles. He did not mention the incident.

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“I learned with pain and concern of a fresh and even fiercer missile attack on Ukraine, which caused deaths and damage to much civilian infrastructure,” Francis said in Italian.

“Let us pray so that the Lord converts the hearts of those who still bet on war and make the desire for peace prevail in martyred Ukraine in order to avoid escalation and to open the path to a ceasefire and dialogue,” he said.

Russia launched 110 missiles and 10 Iranian-made attack drones at Ukraine on Tuesday, Ukraine’s armed forces General Staff said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the main target of the missile flurry was energy infrastructure, as before, though added that only 10 intended targets in all had been hit.

The attacks had left millions of Ukrainians without energy in 16 of the country’s 24 regions including Kyiv, the UN humanitarian office (OCHA) said.

Last month Francis for the first time directly begged Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the “spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine.

He has been mentioning Ukraine at nearly all his public appearances and has several times said the crisis was risking the use of nuclear weapons, with uncontrollable global consequences.

Read more:

Explainer: What we know about the missile blast in Poland

G7, NATO countries to remain in close contact over Poland blasts

Russia says its strikes on Ukraine were no closer than 35 km from Polish border

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