Ukraine war: Pope says yes to weapons, Moscow-installed officials killed, tortured bodies unearthed

·6-min read
Ukraine war: Pope says yes to weapons, Moscow-installed officials killed, tortured bodies unearthed

1. Pope Francis condones sending weapons to Ukraine

Pope Francis said on Thursday that it is morally legitimate for nations to supply weapons to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from Russian attacks.

Speaking at a 45-minute-long news conference aboard a plane, the Pope answered one of the reporters who asked whether it was right for nations to send arms to the assailed Eastern European state.

"This is a political decision which it can be moral, morally acceptable, if it is done under conditions of morality," he responded.

He further expounded on the Roman Catholic Church's "Just War" principles, which allow for the proportional use of lethal weapons in instances of self-defence against an aggressor nation.

Nevertheless, he also urged Kyiv to open up to eventual dialogue, while admitting it may be a challenge for the Ukrainian side.

Francis has left Kazakhstan after a three-day trip, which included an interfaith conference where he made comments that seemed aimed at Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill -- who is one of the most vocal supporters of the invasion of Ukraine and did not attend the meeting in person.

"God is peace. He guides us always in the way of peace, never that of war," the Pope said on Wednesday.

Sergei Bobylev/Sputnik
Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Friday, 16 September 2022. - Sergei Bobylev/Sputnik

2. Putin says Russia 'in no rush' as he vows to continue attacks in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed Friday to press his attack on Ukraine despite Kyiv's latest counteroffensive and warned that Moscow could ramp up its strikes on the country's vital infrastructure if Ukrainian forces target facilities in Russia.

Speaking to reporters Friday after attending a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Uzbekistan, Putin said the “liberation” of Ukraine's entire eastern Donbas region remained Russia’s main military goal and that he sees no need to revise it.

“We aren’t in a rush,” the Russian leader said, adding that Moscow has only deployed volunteer soldiers to fight in Ukraine.

In his first comment on the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Putin said: “Let’s see how it develops and how it ends.”

He noted that Ukraine has tried to strike civilian infrastructure in Russia, and “we so far have responded with restraint, but just yet.”

“If the situation develops this way, our response will be more serious,” Putin said.

Some hardline politicians and military bloggers have urged the Kremlin to follow Ukraine's example and order a broad mobilization to beef up the ranks, lamenting Russia's manpower shortage.

At the security summit, Putin also met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

While speaking to the Indian leader, Putin said that he wanted the war in Ukraine to end "as soon as possible", acknowledging the concerns Modi may have had.

He also engaged in a discussion with Erdogan, who stated that he was attempting to convince Putin to bring the war to a halt through diplomatic means.

"We are making efforts to finalise the conflict in Ukraine through diplomacy as soon as possible," Turkey's president asserted.

The Russian and Turkish leaders addressed other issues at the summit, including the issue of grain exports and gas supplies.

According to Putin, a new agreement would soon be implemented whereby 25% of gas supplies to Turkey would be acquired in roubles.

3. Moscow-installed prosecutors in Luhansk killed in bomb attack

Two prosecutors from the Russian-backed separatist Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) in eastern Ukraine died in a bomb explosion at their offices on Friday, the head of the LNR administration said.

"Today, as a result of a terrorist act, Prosecutor-General of the LNR Sergei Gorenko and his deputy Ekaterina Steglenko were killed," Leonid Pasechnik said in a statement posted on the Telegram messaging app.

Pasechnik condemned the attacks and described Ukraine as a “terrorist state" in response.

The blast follows what Pasechnik described on Thursday as a "tense situation" for Russia and its proxies in eastern Ukraine and in the part of the area Moscow has managed to capture early on in their campaign in particular.

On Thursday, Pasechnik did recognise “some successes” in the Ukrainian front’s effort to regain territory from Russian control.

Evgeniy Maloletka/AP
Experts work during the exhumation of bodies in the recently retaken area of Izium, Ukraine, Friday, 16 September 2022. - Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

4. Bodies unearthed at mass grave in eastern Ukraine show signs of torture

Ukrainian authorities have started unearthing bodies found at a mass grave near Izium, the recently recaptured city in eastern Ukraine.

Certain cadavers appeared to show signs of torture, according to the head of the prosecutor's office in the Kharkiv region. Some were found with their hands tied behind their back or with ropes around their neck.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had previously stated that the shocking discoveries exemplified "what the Russian occupation has led to".

The site was spotted by AP journalists outside of the town of almost 50,000, seeing hundreds of graves with simple wooden crosses amid the trees, most of them marked only with numbers. A larger grave bore a marker saying it contained the bodies of 17 Ukrainian soldiers.

Zelenskyy condemned the tragedy at Izium in his Thursday night televised address, claiming that "Russia leaves death everywhere" and that "the world must bring Russia to real responsibility for this war."

While speaking to Reuters on Friday, he accused Moscow of committing atrocities in the recently recaptured northeastern areas.

"As of today, there are 450 dead people, buried. But there are others, separate burials of many people. Tortured people. Entire families in certain territories," Zelenskyy stated.

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5. Zelenskyy agrees to ammonia exports in return for POWs

Zelenskyy said on Friday that he would only assent to reopening Russian ammonia gas exports through Ukraine if Moscow handed Ukrainian prisoners of war back to Kyiv.

In an interview with Reuters, the Ukrainian leader said he had proposed this arrangement to the United Nations, which has suggested resuming Russian ammonia across Ukraine to ease a global shortage of fertiliser.

"I am against supplying ammonia from the Russian Federation through our territory. I would only do it in exchange for our prisoners. This is what I offered the UN," he said in an interview at his presidential office.

The UN has suggested that ammonia owned by Russian fertiliser producer Uralchem be pumped by pipeline to the Ukrainian border, where it would be bought by a US-based commodities trader, Trammo.

The pipeline has been designed to pump up to 2.5 million tonnes of ammonia per year but has been shut down after Moscow invaded Ukraine in February.