Pope Francis said Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told him when they met in late April that Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to end the invasion of Ukraine on May 9 — Russia's Victory Day.
The Pope made the comments to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview published Tuesday.
Orban, when I met him, he told me that the Russians have a plan, that everything will be over on May 9th," Pope Francis said.
"This would also explain the speed of the escalation of these days. Because now it's not just the Donbas, it's Crimea, it's Odesa, it's taking away the Black Sea port from Ukraine, it's everything.
"There is not enough will for peace," the Pope said. "I am pessimistic, but we must make every possible gesture to stop the war."
The Pope expressed concern that Putin may continue the invasion of Ukraine and said his guess is that "the barking of NATO at Russia's door" may have prompted Putin to start the conflict. "An anger that I don't know if it was provoked," the Pope wondered, "but perhaps facilitated, yes."
He also repeated earlier statements that he is ready to travel to Moscow to meet with Putin and compared the war in Ukraine to the genocide in Rwanda.
"We have not yet received an answer and we are still insisting, even if I fear that Putin cannot and does not want to have this meeting right now. But so much brutality, how can you not stop it? Twenty-five years ago we experienced the same thing with Rwanda," Pope Francis said.
The Pope said he will not travel to Kyiv for now, instead sending a representative.
"First I have to go to Moscow, first I have to meet Putin. But I'm a priest too, what can I do? I'll do whatever I can. If Putin opened the door," he said.