South Korea will implement export controls against Belarus for "effectively supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine", Seoul's foreign ministry said today.

The ministry did not detail what measures would be taken, but said they will be applied in a similar way to moves already taken by South Korea against Russia.

It condemned Moscow as having launched an "armed invasion" of Ukraine.

South Korea said last month it would tighten export controls against Russia by banning shipments of strategic items and join Western countries' moves to block some Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system.

"The Korean government decided today to implement export control measures against Belarus as well, judging that Belarus is effectively supporting the Russian invasion of Ukraine," the ministry said in today's statement.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation".

Pope Francis today rejected this assertion, saying the country was being battered by war.

"In Ukraine rivers of blood and tears are flowing. This is not just a military operation but a war which sows death, destruction and misery," the pope said in his weekly address to crowds gathered in St Peter's Square.

However, as has been the case throughout the 11-day conflict, the pope did not publicly condemn Russia by name for its invasion.

Instead, he repeated his appeal for peace, the creation of humanitarian corridors and a return to negotiations.

"In that martyred country the need for humanitarian assistance is growing by the hour," the pope said, speaking from a window overlooking the square.

"Let common sense prevail, let us return to the respect of international law."

Andriy Yurash, Ukraine's ambassador to the Vatican, praised the pope for calling the conflict a war.

"I am very, very happy that he said that," he told Reuters.

"Even if the pope did not say the word 'Russia', everyone in the world knows who the aggressor that invaded us is and who started this unprovoked war," he said.


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Meanwhile, senior US officials have travelled to Venezuela for talks with President Nicolas Maduro's government, seeking to determine whether Caracas is prepared to distance itself from close ally Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The trip, the highest-level US visit to Venezuela in years, came as part of a US effort to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Some analysts also see US-sanctioned Venezuela as a potential alternate source of oil supplies should Washington attempt to restrict Moscow's energy shipments.

It comes as the Russian invasion of Ukraine adds an extra layer of complexity to the decisions facing European Central Bank policymakers as they meet on Thursday.

Already managing record inflation figures and a fragile recovery from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, members of the bank's 25-member governing council now have to reckon with the impact of war on the edge of the eurozone.

The pace of consumer price rises shifted up a gear in February, rising to 5.8 percent from 5.1 percent the previous month, a new all-time high for the euro area.

The spike has been driven in no small part by soaring prices for energy, caught in the middle of the conflict with Russia, a major supplier to European countries.

ECB President Christine Lagarde responded to the 24 February invasion by saying the central bank would "take whatever action is necessary" to stabilise the euro region's economy.

Prices for gas and oil were "likely in the short term to increase inflation", she said, sustaining it for longer than the bank previously expected.

Soaring inflation has put the ECB under pressure to follow its peers in the United States and Britain by moving to end its economic stimulus and raise interest rates soon.

At its last meeting at the beginning of February, the ECB left its plan for a "step-by-step" reduction in its asset-purchasing programmes untouched.

The new inflation projections, which will take account of the Ukraine conflict and the most recent data, could see a sharp upwards revision.

The outlook was however shrouded in "significant uncertainty", ECB executive board member Isabel Schnabel said after Russian tanks moved on Ukraine.

At the same time, the high cost for energy was likely to weigh on the economy and slow production, narrowing policymakers' room for manoeuvre.

The double risk will encourage the ECB to "tread carefully", said Andrew Kenningham of Capital Economics.
It will also encourage the bank to give a signal it "could even step up support if needed", he added.