Putin late to meet Pope: Russian leader keeps Holy See waiting for over an hour

The Russian president is notorious for his lateness

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The Independent Online

Seemingly not concerned with making up for the first time he was late meeting Pope Francis, Russian President Vladimir Putin has kept the Holy See waiting for over an hour.

The two men had planned to meet to discuss the crisis in Ukraine, and the threat to minority Christians in the Middle East.

However, Putin’s black stretch-limousine arrived at the Vatican an hour and 20 minutes late. Earlier that day, the leader had flown into Rome from Milan where he spent the morning touring the Russian pavilion at the world's fair and meeting with Italian Premier Matteo Renzi.

The Russian president also kept the Pope waiting on their first meeting in 2013, when he was 50 minutes late to the Vatican.

Papal courtiers were “shivering” outside in the cold November weather as they awaited his arrival, according to a report from independent daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets seen by BBC News. On that occasion, Putin was held up by women protesting outside his hotel in solidarity with punk band Pussy Riot.

Putin's habit of being late dates back to the early years of his tenure. In 2003 he was 14 minutes late to meet the Queen, while in 2004 he kept the parents of children killed in a plane crash waiting at a cemetery for two hours, The Guardian reported.

 

Fast-forward almost a decade and little has changed, with Putin keeping US secretary of state John Kerry waiting in Moscow for three hours in 2012.

However, in an apparent acknowledgement that it is not done to keep the Pope waiting twice, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian journalists, according to The Guardian: “It’s true that the meeting with the pope happened a little after the planned time.

"This was because talks in Milan went on longer than expected and our motorcade was quite slow moving through the streets of Milan and Rome. Of course, during the whole time we kept in touch with the Vatican and explained our lateness."

During the private meeting on Wednesday, the Pope advised Putin to engage in “sincere” international efforts to bring peace to Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have been clashing with the army in the country’s east. Over 6,000 people have died since fighting began last year,according to the UN.

Before the session, the US ambassador to the Holy See, Kenneth Hackett said his country hoped the Pope would raise concerns about the bloody conflict.

In the past, Francis has gone as far as expressing disapproval of the loss of life in Ukraine, and urging both sides to respect the cease-fire. However, he has steered clear of blaming Russia in what appears to be an attempt to protect delicate relations with the Orthodox Church in Russia, where Catholics are a tiny minority.

But when the men re-emerged from their 50-minute-long discussion, it seemed that wider discussions about the hostilities were focused on in favour of who is to blame for the conflict.

A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Francis highlighted the “need to commit oneself in a sincere and great effort to achieve peace”, and that both sides should work to ease tensions.

He added that both men "agreed on the importance of reconstructing a climate of dialogue and that all sides commit oneself to implementing the Minsk accords."

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