Zelensky today in Rome: meetings with Mattarella, Pope Francis and Meloni

Special security measures in the capital, the Ukrainian president will fly to Germany after the lightning visit

Volodymyr Zelensky in Rome. The President of Ukraine will be the protagonist of a lightning visit for a series of meetings in the Italian capital. He will be received by the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, on a day which – pending official confirmations – will also feature a face-to-face meeting with Pope Francis and an interview with the Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni. Zelensky, at the end of the program, would then leave for Germany, first to Berlin to see Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, then to Aachen to receive the Charlemagne prize.

SECURITY PROGRAM – Zelensky’s visit is characterized by special security measures. Timetables and movements are not disclosed. Until just over 24 hours ago, Vatican sources continued to define the meeting between Pope Francis and Zelensky as “possible”: the official announcement relating to the face-to-face meeting at the Vatican did not arrive on Friday and, therefore, also for reasons security, no time details were provided. On 13 May, the Pontiff has several appointments on his agenda: starting at 9. The last scheduled hearing is at 11.30. More probable then that the face-to-face between Francesco and Zelensky could take place in the afternoon.

The Pope received the Ukrainian premier Denys Shmyhal a couple of weeks ago while he had received Zelensky, before the war in Ukraine, in February 2020. Returning from Hungary, the Pope had announced a peace mission: “I am willing to do everything what must be done” for peace in Ukraine. “Even now a mission is underway, but it’s not public yet. Let’s see how. When it’s public I’ll tell you,” he had said. The Holy See’s peace mission to mediate between Russia and Ukraine, denied by both Kiev and Moscow, was confirmed in recent days by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin: “The mission will take place. There are confidential news”. Parolin hadn’t even hidden his “surprise” at the reaction of the parties “warned for some time”. A few days later Parolin added: “I think we will continue”.

Zelensky’s visit to the Vatican is closely watched by Russia. The meeting is not directly connected to the “peace mission” announced by the Pope according to the Russian news agency Tass which cites a Vatican source, according to whom the visit to the Vatican had not been planned and “the request was received only a few days ago”.

“The ‘peace mission’ is a special initiative, not currently public”, added the source, recalling that the Pope usually meets foreign heads of state at their request. The Vatican sources cited by Tass consider it “very probable”, in the event of a meeting, that a peace agreement will be discussed.

THE SAFETY PLAN – In the meantime, the security plan was launched in Rome with wide-ranging services guaranteed by a huge force of order. Reclamations will be carried out with dog lovers and bomb squads in sensitive places, checks also in the subsoil, with inspection of the sewage systems. The Tiber will also be monitored by the River Police and the parks, where surveillance will also be ensured by the mounted department, while control from the air will be carried out with the helicopters of the State Police. Various teams of snipers will be involved in the places affected by the Ukrainian president’s visit. The anti-terrorism units of the State Police and Arma dei Carabinieri (Uopi, Api and Aos) are also in the field.

Tight checks are also envisaged in railway stations, airports, and on the main roads and motorways. For the entire duration of the visit there will be a No Fly Zone and overflights by unauthorized drones will be prevented. Furthermore, a task force will be active in the operations room of the Rome Police Headquarters, in the area reserved for the management of major events, where all public order and safety services will be coordinated.