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As Zelensky arrives at the UN to ask for support, Russian drones attack Lviv

KIEV – As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky prepared to address the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Russian forces launched an overnight missile and drone attack that hit cities as far west as Lviv, where authorities said that a humanitarian aid warehouse was destroyed.

Zelensky arrived in New York City on Monday as his forces continue to launch a tough counteroffensive against Russian invaders occupying large swaths of territory in the south and east. The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to condemn the invasion and demand respect for Ukraine’s borders, but the Kremlin has ignored calls for its troops to withdraw.

For last year’s General Assembly, Zelensky remained in kyiv and addressed the meeting by video. At that time, his army was involved in a much more successful and rapid operation that expelled Russian troops from the northeastern Kharkiv region.

Zelensky’s in-person attendance this year, to be followed by meetings later this week in Congress and the White House, reflects a dire need to rally global support, as Ukraine’s Western supporters worry about the slow pace of the counteroffensive. Zelensky, a comedian and actor by profession, has proven to have formidable powers of persuasion on the world stage.

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In a statement to the Washington Post ahead of Zelensky’s visit to the United Nations and the United States, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said his country had no better defender.

“I’ve seen him at numerous international events and meetings, and I know he has a kind of superpower, the ability to really persuade people in person,” said Kuleba, who also traveled to New York.

Zelensky was also scheduled to attend a UN Security Council meeting and “hold a series of important bilateral talks,” Kuleba said, without providing further details. Zelensky, he said, “will present some very specific measures” that the United Nations can implement “to strengthen the principle of territorial integrity.”

“We now find ourselves at a critical juncture, as Ukraine continues to advance on the battlefield,” Kuleba said, “and it is critical to sustain and strengthen global support for Ukraine.”

Despite kyiv’s claims of small and steady territorial gains, concerns have grown in the West that the war may be turning into a protracted conflict, possibly lasting for years. Such a scenario would potentially benefit Russia, which has a much larger army and population from which to draw soldiers. It could also have serious economic repercussions internationally.

Despite Russia’s blatant invasion of its neighbor, the deaths of thousands of soldiers and civilians, and accusations of war crimes committed by Russian troops, some countries in Asia, Africa and South America have been reluctant to apply Western sanctions against Russia, for fear of disrupting its economic and diplomatic ties with Moscow.

In the United States, some American lawmakers, particularly House Republicans, are questioning the high price of continued economic and military support for Ukraine, estimated at some $73 billion globally.

On Thursday, Zelensky will travel to Washington to meet with President Biden (his second meeting at the White House since the Russian invasion in February 2022), as well as Senate and Congressional leaders and other senior officials.

But Ukrainian forces are advancing slowly and suffering heavy losses in their counteroffensive, launched in early summer, as they advance on entrenched Russian positions through heavily mined fields.

Last week, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Ukrainian troops may have only “30 to 45 days” left before rain and freezing weather halts fighting until next year. , although Ukrainian officials say the fighting will not end. stop during the winter.

US intelligence officials have also predicted that during this time Ukraine will not reach the city of Melitopol, one of the key targets of this year’s counteroffensive.

On Monday, officials said Kiev troops liberated the village of Klishchiivka in eastern Ukraine, located near the town of Bakhmut, which could provide a foothold for future advances. The news, while positive, also underlined the slow pace of Ukrainian troops’ advance.

The situation on the battlefield contrasts with that of last December, when Zelensky made his previous trip to the United States, which also included a joint speech before Congress. Then, Ukrainian forces had recently liberated Kherson in the south, the only regional capital that Russian forces managed to occupy.

On Tuesday, Ukraine’s air force said Russian forces launched 30 self-destructing drones and one ballistic missile overnight at targets across Ukraine.

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More than half of the drones were aimed at the western Lviv region, the head of the local regional administration, Maksym Kozytskyi, said on social media. Three warehouses in the city of Lviv were attacked, including one belonging to Caritas-Spes Ukraine, a Roman Catholic humanitarian organization that is part of the Caritas Europe Federation.

Caritas employees “were unharmed,” the organization said in a statement, but “the warehouse with everything inside was burned to the ground.” However, one person was killed in an attack on another warehouse, local officials said.

Denise Brown, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, said in a statement that she condemned “in the strongest terms” the attack on the Caritas-Spes warehouse, which destroyed 300 tons of humanitarian aid.

“Attacks affecting humanitarian assets have intensified throughout the year and ultimately impact those suffering the terrible consequences of war,” Brown said.

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said the Lviv region had “virtually no military facilities” and was mainly used as a production hub and center for humanitarian operations.

“Most likely (the Russians) get satisfaction when they cause pain,” he said.

Isabelle Khurshudyan in Lviv and Kostiantyn Khudov in kyiv contributed to this report.

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