‘Seun Ibukun-Oni, Abuja


Pope Francis has for the first time directly appealed to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to stop the “spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine, saying he is haunted by “rivers of blood and tears”.


The head of the Catholic Church also condemned the annexation of four regions of Ukraine, saying it risked nuclear escalation and urged Putin to think of his own people during an address dedicated to Ukraine in St Peter’s Square.


He also called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to consider proposals to halt the fighting.


“On the other side, pained by the enormous suffering of the Ukrainian population following the aggression it suffered, I address an equally hopeful appeal to the president of Ukraine to be open to a serious peace proposal,” he said.