Ukraine live briefing: Zelensky meets pope, hails ‘important meeting for approaching victory’ alongside Italian PM

ROME — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Italy’s president and prime minister in Rome on Saturday before visiting Pope Francis at the Vatican. It was the first time Zelensky met the pontiff since Russia’s invasion, though ultimately Francis’s influence over the conflict may be limited.

Ukrainian officials announced air alerts throughout the country early Saturday and reported casualties. The cities of Nikopol, Khmelnytskyi and Mykolaiv were hit by Russian strikes, they said. Air sirens also blared in the capital, Kyiv, and the port city of Odessa. Meanwhile, pro-Russian officials in Luhansk, a breakaway Ukrainian region backed and occupied by the Kremlin, reported explosions that they blamed on Ukrainian forces.

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