Pope Francis has revealed that during a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, he was told that Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to end his invasion of Ukraine next week.
“When I met Orban, he told me that the Russians have a precise plan, and that the war will end on May 9th,” the pope told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview published Tuesday.
May 9 is Russia’s Victory Day, which celebrates the victory over Nazi Germany at the end of World War II.
“I sure hope so. That would explain the speed of the military operations in the last few days,” he continued, noting that Russia has been focused on taking the Black Sea ports away from Ukraine.
“I have a bad feeling about it all, I’ll admit,” Francis said. “I’m very pessimistic. However, it is our duty to do all we can to stop the war.”
The pope met with Orban on April 21.
During the interview, Francis emphasized his desire to meet with Putin, saying he must travel to Moscow before visiting Kyiv — where he has sent a representative of the Vatican.
“First, I must go to Moscow, I want to meet Putin first of all,” he said. “But in the end, I am just a priest, what can I possibly achieve? I’ll do what I can. If Putin decided to leave the door open.”
Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, causing more than 5.5 million people to evacuate the country. The nonstop fighting, bombing and shelling across the country have left thousands of civilians and soldiers dead.
Many foreign leaders, including President Biden, have accused the Russian president of committing war crimes after an increasing amount of attacks appeared to strictly target civilian areas.
Even Pope Francis has compared the atrocities to the Rwanda genocide in 1994.
“We received no answer whatsoever, but we keep pressing them on this issue,” the pope said of his hope for a meeting. “I fear, however, that Putin cannot or does not want to agree to our meeting at the moment.”
“But how can you not try and do whatever you can to stop the atrocities? Twenty-five years ago, we saw something similar happening in Rwanda.”
In recent weeks, Russian troops have shifted their focus to eastern Ukraine, after failing to take over the capital, Kyiv, and other key central cities. Ukrainian troops have been putting up a strong defense in the eastern regions — preventing Russia from capturing additional strategic locations.
It is unclear if Putin will scale back the invasion further, as other reports have indicated he could officially declare war on Ukraine.