At the end of the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, at the time of the so-called
‘kiss hand’, Pope Francis met and greeted the wives of two officers of the Azov Battalion this morning, the Ukrainian military unit whose fighters are currently barricaded in the tunnels of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, opposing the last irreducible resistance in a city by now already in the hands of the Russians. The young wives of the Azov military wrote to the Pontiff in recent days and yesterday they surprisingly received the invitation for today’s meeting in audience (THE SPECIAL SKY WAR TG24 – ALL UPDATES IN REAL TIME).
Meeting dictated by humanitarian reasons
Present at the Pope’s audience are Kateryna Prokopenko, wife of the commander of Azov, Denis Prokopenko, and Yulya Fedosiuk, wife of Arseniy Fedosiuk. A total of four military wives should have participated, but two, who were in Poland, did not manage to arrive in Rome in time. The presence of the wives of the officers of the Ukrainian regiment at the papal audience is mainly motivated by humanitarian reasons, concerning the situation of those who are still barricaded in the steel mill. In recent days, the Pope had already been sent a letter from the relatives of the “besieged of Mariupol” so that he could take action to facilitate their evacuation and salvation. According to what has been learned, before receiving the wives of the officers of the controversial Battalion in the general audience, Francesco had the necessary information gathered. His invitation was then delivered to them yesterday through diplomatic channels. The two women had previously been in Italy and in their contacts with the Vatican they were also joined by the Russian-Canadian artist and dissident activist anti-Putin Pyotr Verzilov, previously unofficial spokesman for the punk rock collective Pussy Riot, and with arrests in Russia and also a suspected attempted poisoning. Today’s initiative of the Pontiff – dictated primarily by reasons of solidarity towards the besieged in the martyr city of Mariupol – will certainly cause discussion, since the Azov Battalion, established as a nationalist paramilitary group in February 2014, in the early stages of war of the Donbass, and now praised at home for his heroism in resisting the Russian invasion, is in any case singled out for the presence of neo-Nazi elements and has also been accused of war crimes in the past.
“We hope it can help save our husbands”
The meeting with the Pope was “a historic moment. We all hope together that this will help save our husbands, the soldiers who are in the Azovstal in Mariupol. We hope this meeting will give us a chance to save their lives” . These are the statements of Katarina and Yulia after the meeting with Pope Francis. The hope is that their soldiers will be given the opportunity to evacuate from the steel mill.