VATICAN CITY — The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has met with Pope Francis to discuss efforts to end the war in Ukraine and relieve the global food crisis it has exacerbated.

In a tweet after the 20-minute audience Friday, von der Leyen wrote: “We stand with those suffering from the destruction in Ukraine. This war must end, bringing peace back to Europe.”

Von der Leyen also met with the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who recently returned from Ukraine. The Vatican said their talks focused on the “common commitment to work to bring the war in Ukraine to an end, dedicating particular attention to the humanitarian aspects and the food consequences of the continuation of the conflict.”



— Ukraine fears a long war might cause West to lose interest

— Ukraine: Drivers risk all to bring aid, help civilians flee

— West denounces death sentences for 3 who fought for Ukraine

— Ukraine soccer club Shakhtar survives into 9th year of exile


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GENEVA — The U.N. human rights office has voiced concern about the death sentences imposed by pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine on three captured foreigners who were fighting on the Ukrainian side.

A court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic found two Britons and one Moroccan guilty of seeking the violent overthrow of power. The men were also convicted of mercenary activities and terrorism.

U.N. rights office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani noted Friday that, according to the Ukrainian military, all three were part of Ukraine’s armed forces. She said if that is the case they “should not be considered as mercenaries”

Shamdasani said that, since 2015, the office has observed that the judiciary in rebel-run separatist areas “has not complied with essential fair trial guarantees, such as public hearing, independence and impartiality of the court and the right not to be compelled to testify.”

She added that “such trials against prisoners of war amount to a war crime.”


ZAGREB, Croatia — Croatia’s HRT state television says a Croatian citizen who has been wounded while fighting in Ukraine has been transferred home and hospitalized in the capital, Zagreb.

HRT reported Friday that the man is in stable condition after suffering serious injuries to an arm and leg. Doctors say they are assessing his condition to determine whether and when to perform surgery.

The man fought alongside Ukrainian forces against Russia. Another Croatian citizen was detained by Russian troops last month after fighting in the port city of Mariupol.

HRT identified the injured fighter as Jozinović Vuković.


KYIV, Ukraine — A regional governor says Ukrainian soldiers are fighting for every house in street battles in a key city in eastern Ukraine.

Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press on Friday that the Ukrainian forces have retained control of the industrial area on the edge of the city of Sievierodonetsk and also control some other sections.

He said that “battles are going on for every house and every street.”

Sievierodonetsk, the administrative center of Luhansk province in the Donbas industrial region, has been the focus of the Russian offensive in recent weeks.


LONDON — The British government says Russia must take responsibility for the “sham trial” of two Britons who have been sentenced to death for fighting against Russian forces in Ukraine.

Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were convicted along with a Moroccan man by a court run by Russia-backed rebels in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, which is not recognized internationally.

The two Britons were members of a Ukrainian military unit and were captured in the southern port of Mariupol.

Government minister Robin Walker said it was “an illegal court in a sham government” but that the U.K. would use “all diplomatic channels to make the case that these are prisoners of war who should be treated accordingly.”

He said “Russia needs to take responsibility, its responsibilities under the Geneva Convention, for the treatment of prisoners of war.”

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is due to speak to her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba later Friday about the case. The U.K. has not announced any plans to speak to Russian officials.


KYIV, Ukraine — As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grinds into its fourth month, officials in Kyiv have expressed fears that the specter of “war fatigue” could erode the West’s resolve to help the country push back Moscow’s aggression.

The U.S. and its allies have given billions of dollars in weaponry to Ukraine. Europe has taken in millions of people displaced by the war. And there has been unprecedent unity in post-World War II Europe in imposing sanctions on President Vladimir Putin and his country.

But as the shock of the Feb. 24 invasion subsides, analysts say the Kremlin could exploit a dragged-out, entrenched conflict and possible waning interest by the West that might lead to pressuring Ukraine into a settlement.


ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine — Volunteer drivers are risking everything to deliver humanitarian aid to Ukrainians behind the front lines of the war — and to help many of them escape.

The routes are dangerous and long and the drivers risk detention, injury or death. Ukrainian activists say more than two dozen drivers have been detained and held for more than two months by Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk region.

In Donetsk and the Luhansk region, vans and minibuses of volunteers zip through towns and down country roads, racing to evacuate civilians as artillery shells whistle through the air. Russian forces are doubling down on their offensive in the regions.