ROME (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy arrived in Rome on Saturday for meetings with Pope Francis and Italian leaders, Italian state media reported.
Zelenskyy arrived at Rome’s Ciampino airport, with Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani on hand to greet him, the ANSA news agency said.
Zelenskyy will hold midday meetings with Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, who staunchly backs military and other aid for Ukraine, and with President Sergio Mattarella.
Zelenskyy’s exact schedule wasn’t being publicly announced because of security concerns, and the Vatican only confirmed a papal meeting shortly before the Ukrainian president’s expected arrival in Rome.
Italian state television reported that as part of protective measures, a no-fly zone was ordered for Rome skies and police sharpshooters were strategically placed on high buildings.
Political Cartoons on World Leaders
Meloni met with Zelenskyy in Kyiv, shortly before the anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.
Francis, who is eager for peace, last met with the Ukrainian leader in 2020.
The pontiff makes frequent impassioned pleas on behalf of Ukraine’s “martyred” people, in his words.
At the end of April, flying back to Rome from a trip to Hungary, Francis told reporters on the plane that the Vatican was involved in a behind-the-scene peace mission but gave no details. Neither Russia nor Ukraine has confirmed such an initiative.
The German government, meanwhile, said it was providing Ukraine with additional military aid worth more than 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion), including tanks, anti-aircraft systems and ammunition.
The announcement Saturday came as preparations were underway in Berlin for a possible first visit to Germany by Zelenskyy since Russia invaded his country last year.
Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said Berlin wants to show with the latest package of arms “that Germany is serious in its support” for Ukraine.
“Germany will provide all the help it can, as long as it takes,” he said.
Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.