Russia-Ukraine war news: At U.N., Zelensky calls for complete Russian withdrawal

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited wounded Ukrainian soldiers at a New York City hospital on Sept. 18, ahead of the United Nations General Assembly. (Video: Volodymyr Zelensky via Storyful)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told fellow world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday that Ukraine would not settle for any peace plan that did not include Russia’s full withdrawal from Ukrainian territory.

In an impassioned speech, Zelensky pushed for sustained backing for an embattled Ukraine, even as support for the war appears to be flagging in the United States and abroad.

“Mass destruction is gaining momentum,” Zelensky said. “The aggressor is weaponizing many other things, and those things are used not only against our country, but against all of yours as well, fellow leaders.”

President Biden, speaking earlier Tuesday, also called on the assembly to continue to back Ukraine to “deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow.”

“If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?” Biden asked. “I’d respectfully suggest the answer is no.”

Here’s the latest on the war and its impact across the globe.

Biden and Zelensky must win the hearts and minds of developing nations that have increasingly called for a negotiated settlement with Russia because of the war’s toll on global food and energy prices. “If we abandon the core principles of the [U.N. Charter] to appease an aggressor, can any member state in this body feel confident that they are protected?” Biden asked the assembly on Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are not scheduled to attend the U.N. summit this week.

Zelensky used his address to emphasize how the Kremlin’s invasion violates the United Nations’ principle of sovereignty of borders. His speech, which marked his first in-person visit to the United Nations since the invasion began, also aimed to promote Ukrainian food security, defense and recovery initiatives. “We see towns, we see villages in Ukraine, wiped out by Russian artillery, leveled to the ground completely,” he said. “We see the war of drones. We know the possible effects of spreading the war into the cyberspace.”

Zelensky is expected to meet with Biden in Washington later this week, his foreign minister said. The pair will hold talks, and Zelensky will also meet with leaders of both chambers and parties in Congress, as well as other senior American officials, Kuleba said. Zelensky is also expected to take part in U.N. Security Council meetings and hold bilateral talks with other leaders, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told The Washington Post.

A Moscow City Court on Tuesday rejected Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s appeal of his pretrial detention, according to the Russian news agency Interfax. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne M. Tracy attended the hearing. Gershkovich was arrested in March and charged with espionage, allegations he strongly denies. The Journal petitioned the United Nations last week to declare Gershkovich arbitrarily detained and accused Russia of “holding him hostage” as political leverage against the United States.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry called for Baku and Yerevan to “to immediately cease hostilities” after Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry on Tuesday launched what it called an “anti-terrorist” campaign in the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region under Armenian control. Russia has leverage with parties to both sides of the conflict, but the renewed hostilities raise the risk of another regional war while the Kremlin is bogged down in Ukraine. Armenia heavily relies on Russia in security matters, though Russia has been mostly inactive in recent months as tensions rose after Azerbaijani forces blockaded the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, discussed Ukraine, among other topics, during a meeting in Moscow on Tuesday. They compared notes and “coordinated positions” on where the two countries stand on regional and international issues of common concern, including Ukraine, according to a readout from China’s Foreign Ministry. Putin is set to travel to China in October to meet Xi for bilateral talks in Beijing during a forum for China’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative, Russian state media outlets reported Tuesday.

Ukraine will file a complaint with the World Trade Organization against Poland, Slovakia and Hungary over bans on food imports from Ukraine, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said. He called the import bans a “violation of the norms” of trade and said Kyiv would launch an “anti-discrimination investigation against the unfriendly actions of these countries in the trade sphere.” He added that Ukraine could also impose similar bans on certain food items from those countries in retaliation.

Local officials in cities and regions across Ukraine said at least five people were killed in another night of Russian attacks. Local authorities in the Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Odessa, Kryvyi Rih and Khmelnytskyi regions reported overnight strikes early Tuesday. In the western city of Lviv, officials said three industrial warehouses were destroyed in strikes, with one man found dead under the rubble and about 10,000 square meters (about 2.5 acres) of land burned. In Kherson, officials said that a police officer and another person were killed Tuesday by Russian artillery fire and that two other civilians were hospitalized with injuries. Six civilians — four men and two women — were reportedly killed in Kupyansk, in Kharkiv, emergency services said.

The U.S. military’s top general predicted Tuesday that Ukrainian forces will press on with their counteroffensive against Russia this winter and that they also have “plenty of fighting weather left” this year before the arrival of a muddy season that slows military vehicles. Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told journalists at a news conference at Germany’s Ramstein Air Base that Ukrainian forces have “plenty of combat power” left and continue to make “slow, steady progress” against entrenched Russian forces.

Ukraine’s cabinet dismissed seven top Defense Ministry officials, including Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar, according to an update shared on Telegram. The announcement comes after Zelensky ousted defense chief Oleksii Reznikov this month, as the ministry grappled with corruption claims. No reason was provided for the dismissals in Monday’s announcement.

Zelensky’s first stop during his U.S. trip was to visit wounded Ukrainian troops rehabilitating in New York. “Thanks to the team of doctors who are helping our boys recover from their injuries,” Zelensky’s office said on Telegram. Photos showed the Ukrainian leader shaking hands with injured soldiers.

Whatever the fuss over Elon Musk, Starlink is utterly essential in Ukraine: The internet services provided by SpaceX, a company owned by billionaire Elon Musk, are critical to Ukrainian troops, Alex Horton and Serhii Korolchuk report. Losing Starlink, one Ukrainian soldier said, would force Ukraine to fall back on inferior alternatives such as radio. It could be done, he said, but it would require difficult trade-offs such as soldiers being forced to leave the relative safety of trenches to pass on information verbally.

“If they stopped working at some point, it wouldn’t be the end of the world,” one Ukrainian deputy battalion commander said, “but it would significantly worsen our situation at the front, our effectiveness.”

Kostiantyn Khudov, Natalia Abbakumova and Lyric Li contributed to this report.

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