Pope says Kyiv visit is ‘on the table’
Pope Francis confirmed to NBC News on Saturday that he was considering an invitation from Kyiv’s mayor to visit the Ukrainian capital.
A trip was “on the table,” the pontiff said as he flew to Malta.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko invited Francis to travel to the city in a letter last month. Klitschko said his presence there was “key” to saving lives and achieving peace.
“We appeal to you, as a spiritual leader, to show your compassion, to stand with the Ukrainian people by jointly spreading the call for peace,” the letter said.
It followed earlier invitations by Ukraine’s Byzantine-rite Catholic leader Sviatoslav Shevchuk and Ukraine’s ambassador to the Vatican, Andriy Yurash.
Death toll from strike on Mykolaiv state building rises to 31
The death toll from an explosion that destroyed Mykolaiv’s regional state administration building on Tuesday morning has risen to 31, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said Saturday. It added that 34 were injured in the blast.
“Rescuers continue to dismantle the structures and remove the bodies of the victims from the rubble in the building of the Regional State Administration in Mykolaiv,” the SES said in a statement posted to its official Telegram channel.
Regional governor Vitaly Kim said shortly after Tuesday’s strike that a Russian missile had hit the building tearing a gaping hole in the structure and destroying his office.
Ukraine says seven humanitarian corridors will open on Saturday
Seven humanitarian corridors to evacuate people from Ukraine’s besieged regions are planned for Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a message posted to her Telegram channel.
The planned corridors include one for people evacuating by private transport from the city of Mariupol and by buses for Mariupol residents out of the city of Berdyansk, Vereshchuk said.
Humanitarian corridors will also open in the southern cities of Severodonetsk and Popasna as other areas of Ukraine’s south which has been besieged by Russian forces, she said.
UK: Russian forces reported to have withdrawn from Kyiv-area airport
Russian forces are said to have withdrawn from an airport near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv where there has been fighting since the Feb. 24 invasion, the British defense ministry said Saturday.
Russian forces have withdrawn from Hostomel airport, which is northwest of the capital, the United Kingdom said in an intelligence update.
Ukrainian forces have also re-taken some villages and “secured a key route in eastern Kharkhiv after heavy fighting,” the U.K. assessment said.
Kharkhiv is in northeastern Ukraine near the Russian border.
Vice President Kamala Harris says regime change not U.S. policy
Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated that regime change in Russia is not the policy of the United States, days after the president remarked that Russian President Vladimir Putin should not remain in power.
“Let me be very clear: We are not into regime change, and that is not our policy. Period,” Harris said in an interview with MSNBC host Joy Reid that aired Friday.
The comments from the vice president come after President Joe Biden in a speech in Poland last week said, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” referring to Putin.
A White House official that day said Biden was not calling for Putin to be deposed, and Biden on Monday said that he was not talking about a U.S. policy change.
“I was expressing my outrage. He shouldn’t remain in power, just like bad people shouldn’t continue to do bad things. But it doesn’t mean we have a fundamental policy to do anything to take Putin down in any way,” Biden said.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reacted to Biden’s comments in Poland by telling Reuters “that’s not for Biden to decide,” and that “the president of Russia is elected by Russians.”
Harris said that Russia has committed atrocities in Ukraine, and called Russia’s invasion and attack “a war that was instigated — unprovoked, unjustified — against a whole population of people.”
Efforts underway to protect artwork in Lviv’s National Gallery
Venice is preparing special material to send to Lviv’s National Art Gallery and other museums in the Ukrainian city so artworks can be better protected during the war.
Mariacristina Gribaudi, head of the Venice Civic Museums Foundation, said in a statement Friday that some 65,000 artworks and 2,000 sculptures have been placed in Lviv storerooms as a precaution, but the objects aren’t adequately protected.
The Venice foundation will oversee a shipment of special fabric that can cover paintings and graphic art as well as furniture, costumes and materials made from glass or marble to protect the objects from the majority of solvents and gasses. The fabric also impedes mold and fungus growth while the works are in storage.
Also being sent are polyethylene foam shock-resistant panels.
Venice museums experts also gave advice in a video call with the Lviv gallery’s management about how to best store artworks.
Russian forces leaving mines behind, Zelenskyy says
Minefields have been planted in areas where Russian forces have left or been pushed back, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address Friday.
He said that in northern Ukraine, Russian forces have either left or been pushed back and “complete catastrophe is left after them.”
“Firstly, the airstrikes can continue,” Zelenskyy said. “Secondly, they lay minefields on those territories, in houses, on equipment, even on dead bodies. There are a lot of trip wires, a lot of other dangers.”
He said in reclaimed territory, people need to wait until the land is cleared of explosives.
There has been some reduction in Russian forces arrayed against Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, but U.S. military officials said Thursday it had not been a wholesale repositioning. On Friday, the mayor of the town of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv, said it was recaptured by Ukrainian forces.