By Linda Bordoni
Pope Francis on Sunday appealed for gestures that promote mutual trust and foster reconciliation in eastern Ukraine amid rising military tensions between Kiev and Moscow.
Speaking after the recitation of the Regina Coeli, the Pope described the situation as a "sad" one, and said he is “following with great concern events in areas of eastern Ukraine, where violations of the ceasefire have multiplied in recent months.”
Expressing his deep preoccupation for an increase in military activities in the area, he said: “I strongly hope an increase in tensions will be avoided, and, on the contrary, that gestures be made that are capable of promoting mutual trust and fostering reconciliation and peace, which are so much needed and so much desired.”
The Pope also highlighted the grave humanitarian situation affecting the population in the areas where tensions continue and said he is close to the people.
Finally, he asked the faithful present in the Square and those who were following through the media to join him in prayer for them.
What’s happening in eastern Ukraine?
Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been rising amid a build-up of Russian troops along the border of eastern Ukraine as well as in Crimea with renewed clashes between the army and pro-Russian separatists.
In the latest development, British warships are reportedly preparing to sail for the Black Sea to show solidarity with Ukraine and Britain's NATO allies.
Observers have expressed fears of a return to war between the Ukrainian government and two Moscow-backed breakaway republics, as was seen six years ago. In 2015 the two sides agreed to an internationally brokered ceasefire and a deal for “decentralised” government known as the Minsk agreements. But since then there have been repeated sqabbling between the sides, mutual accusations of truce violations and the conflict has remained on a low simmer.
Thousands of people have been killed in the violence and hundreds of thousands have been displaced.