Pope expresses “deep concern” over strengthening Ukrainian army

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A member of the Ukrainian armed forces uses periscopes while observing the area at the fighting positions on the separation line near the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine, April 17, 2021. Serhiy Takhmazov, Reuters

Pope Francis on Sunday expressed concern over escalating military activity in eastern Ukraine and called for measures to restore confidence in the region.

His comments came after Ukraine and several Western powers warned Russia of what they say was a gathering of tens of thousands of forces on the border with Ukraine.

Clashes along the border, which had almost ceased after a ceasefire struck last summer, have recently resumed.

Pope Francis spoke after the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square.

“I follow with deep concern the events in several parts of eastern Ukraine, where ceasefire violations have increased in recent months, and I watch with great apprehension the increase in activities military, ”he said.

“I firmly hope that the increase in tensions can be avoided and, on the contrary, that actions can be taken which are capable of promoting mutual trust and fostering reconciliation and peace, so necessary and so desired”, a- he added.

The Pope also spoke of the plight of local civilians caught up in the conflict.

Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday declared their support for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and called on Russia to quickly withdraw its troops from the border region.

Kiev has been battling Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014 and clashes escalated earlier this year, effectively destroying a ceasefire agreed to last July.

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