ROME — Pope Francis on Saturday inched closer to blaming President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for the war in Ukraine as the pontiff arrived in Malta for a short trip emphasizing the plight of migrants, an issue that has long topped his agenda and that has been brought again to the fore by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Francis also said in response to a reporter’s question during his flight to Malta that a possible trip to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, was “on the table.”
Later, in an address to Maltese dignitaries and officials in a frescoed government chamber, the pope blamed a “potentate, sadly caught up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests” for casting “dark shadows of war” from Europe’s east.
Francis has declined to explicitly cite Mr. Putin or Russia as the aggressor for a variety of reasons, including Vatican hopes of playing a part in a potential peace agreement, and out of precaution to not endanger Roman Catholics around the world. But on Saturday, he clearly seemed to be speaking about Mr. Putin, who he said was “provoking and fomenting conflicts.”