Ukraine’s chief Catholic leader says his nation is the “party seeking dialogue” in the war with Russia, but claims “Russia does not consider Ukraine a subject of dialogue, and even more so, denies Ukraine’s right to exist.”

Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church issued his statement on the 110th week of the war, saying as long as Russia, as the aggressor, denies the foundations of international law, a peace agreement will be impossible.

“We often hear about negotiations as an alternative to military confrontation. We are again trying to understand: What is standing in the way of negotiations? Is dialogue between Russia, an aggressor country, a terrorist country, and Ukraine at all possible? And if not, then what stands in his way? We hear accusations against Ukraine that it seems to be refusing negotiations or is not yet ready, does not have the courage for them,” Shevchuk said.

Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

There have been increased aerial attacks by both sides in the past few days, and intense fighting continues in the east of the country.

Pope Francis recently caused controversy in an interview by implying that Ukraine ought to raise a “white flag” and open negotiations in its war with Russia.

Speaking on Feb. 2 – but released in early March – Francis said, “the strongest one is the one who looks at the situation, thinks about the people and has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates.”

Francis said the word negotiate “is a courageous word.”

“When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, you have to have the courage to negotiate,” the pope said.

However, in his statement released on Monday, Shevchuk said any international ceasefire agreement must be based on the norms and principles of international law.

“As long as Russia, as an aggressor, denies the foundations of international law, a peace agreement will be impossible,” the Major Archbishop said.

“We declare in all truth that Ukraine from the beginning of the confrontation acted as a party seeking dialogue. At the initiative of the President of Ukraine, everything possible was done to stop the aggressor through negotiations. However, the whole world saw that Russia does not consider Ukraine a subject of dialogue, and even more so, denies Ukraine’s right to exist,” he said.

Last week, Russia attacked the Ukraine’s largest hydroelectric plant, cutting power in several cities and killing at least 5 people. Russia fired off more than 60 exploding drones and 90 missiles in what Ukrainian officials described as the most brutal attack against its energy infrastructure since the war began.

On March 20, the United Nations Human Rights Office said Russia has created a stifling climate of fear in occupied areas of Ukraine, committing widespread violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in an effort to consolidate its control over the population living there.

In a report based on more than 2,300 interviews with victims and witnesses, says Russia has imposed Russian language, citizenship, laws, court system, and education curricula on the occupied areas, while at the same time suppressing expressions of Ukrainian culture and identity, and dismantling Ukraine’s governance and administrative systems in these regions.

“The actions of the Russian Federation have ruptured the social fabric of communities and left individuals isolated, with profound and long-lasting consequences for Ukrainian society as a whole,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk.