Yermak's unannounced tête-à-tête meeting with the Vatican Secretary of State: Discussing Donbas

06.10.2020, 18:47
Ukraine and world
A one-day trip of the Ukrainian delegation that took place on September 5 and consisted of Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Olga Stefanishyna and Head of the Presidential Office Andriy Yermak to the Apennine Peninsula was more intensive, and the delegation more numerous than officially reported on the Presidential Office website.

According to information of ZN.UA, which has the program of the visit at its disposal, after two half-hour meetings at the Italian Foreign Ministry, where representatives of Ukraine held conversations with the head of the Foreign Ministry of this country Di Maio and the Director-General of the Department of Policy and Security Cardi, Yermak went to the Vatican for a one-on-one meeting with the Secretary of state of the Holy See Cardinal Pietro Parolin (at which the Ukrainian side did not even have an interpreter, and the translation was provided by the other side). The rest of the delegation was exploring local attractions in Pantheon square.

According to diplomatic sources of ZN.UA neither the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry nor the Embassies of Ukraine in Italy and the Holy See were involved in the preparation of this visit. According to the confidants, Claudio Gugerotti, who was an Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine in 2015-2020, played a key role in organizing and preparing Yermak's meeting with the Secretary of State of the Holy See (in fact, the head of government) Cardinal Pietro Parolin. According to sources of ZN.UA, Gugerotti has developed a trusting personal relationship with Yermak, and he acted at his request. Back on July 4, Gugerotti was assigned to the UK, but now he has isolated himself in the Vatican due to coronavirus infection. However, thanks to Pope Francis' own authority and trust, Gugerotti managed to arrange a face-to-face meeting with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See.

According to the sources of ZN.UA one of the main topics of this meeting was the discussion and approval of the most acceptable candidacy of the Ambassador of Ukraine to the Holy See (this position has remained vacant for over a year - since July 2019), since the Presidential Office sees a significant mediation potential, primarily humanitarian, in the possible involvement of the Vatican in settlement of the conflict with the Russian Federation in Donbas. As our confidants suggest, Bankova street expects that this approach to be positively received by the Vatican Secretary of State and that he will be able to help Pope Francis directly call on Russian President Putin to show humanity and unblock and facilitate the exchange of hostages in Donbas.

Cardinal Parolin is considered one of the most influential figures of the Holy See. His appointment as archbishop of Venice is not excluded, which in the future will make it possible for him to participate in the conclave of Cardinals as a candidate for the office of Pope. The cardinal is also one of the Vatican's strongest diplomats and has represented the Holy See on a number of sensitive issues, including organizing dialogue with North Korea, the peace process in the Middle East, restoring direct contacts between the Vatican and China, and others.

The fact that it also included First Deputy Secretary of the national security and Defense Council Demchenko and Plahotniuc, who was appointed Ambassador of Ukraine to Sweden in late September, who until recently headed the Foreign Ministry's Department for countering threats from the Russian Federation, can also indicate that the Ukrainian delegation flew to the Apennines to discuss issues related to the settlement of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Both Demchenko and Plahotniuc have been directly involved in the Minsk and Normandy processes for many years. Both diplomats, according to the program, took part in meetings with both Italian Foreign Minister Di Maio and Director General of the Department of Policy and Security of the Italian Foreign Ministry Cardi. Ruslan Demchenko is also listed as the second (besides Yermak) participant in the meeting of representatives of Ukraine with the diplomatic adviser to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Italy Benassi.

Officially, the Presidential Office announced only one of all the above-mentioned meetings - with Italian Foreign Minister Di Maio.