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Zelenskiy vows to be heard as he prepares for first in-person UN address since Russia’s invasion

Volodymyr Zelenskiy is set to address the UN general assembly in-person on Tuesday for the first time since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, telling reporters: “For us it’s very important that all our words, all our messages will be heard.”

The Ukrainian president made the remarks during a visit to Staten Island university hospital, where Ukrainian soldiers have been treated for amputations.

In 2022, Zelenskiy sent a pre-recorded speech to the UN in which he said: “We can return the Ukrainian flag to our entire territory. We can do it with the force of arms, but we need time.”

Zelenskiy will also attend a UN security council meeting on Ukraine on Wednesday, but was unclear on whether he would remain seated at the 15-member body’s horseshoe-shaped table if Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, speaks.

“And if in the United Nations still … there is a place for Russian terrorists, the question not to me I think, it’s a question to all the members of the United Nations,” he said. “I’m not sure that we will choose the format.

Asked whether he’d stay in the room to listen, Zelenskiy said, “I don’t know how it will be, really.”

On Monday, the Ukrainian president travelled straight to the hospital from the airport after landing in New York, and awarded medals to the wounded soldiers and some hospital staff.

“Thank you for continuing to fight for our country and defend its borders. I also thank the doctors and all those who have been supporting Ukrainian soldiers since the beginning of the full-scale war,” he said, according to a statement from the presidential office. “We will be waiting for all of you. We need you – every warrior of Ukraine – to defeat the enemy. Thank you for your service! Everyone is proud of you! I wish you recovery, victory and return home!”

In his speech on Tuesday, Zelenskiy is expected to make his case to the world and to Washington for continued help in repelling Russia’s invasion, nearly 19 months into the war.

Ukraine’s western allies have supplied weapons and other assistance, and the US Congress is weighing President Joe Biden’s request to provide as much as $24bn more in military and humanitarian aid. US lawmakers are increasingly divided over providing additional money to Ukraine.

Russian UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said last week the council meeting, convened by Albania as the president for September, would simply be a “big show”.

The diplomacy comes amid grinding gains by Ukraine around the heavily contested city of Bakhmut, with the retaking of the tactically important village of Klishchiivka in what would mark Kyiv’s second notable counteroffensive victory in three days.

Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address on Sunday: “Today I would like to particularly commend the soldiers who, step by step, are returning to Ukraine what belongs to it, namely in the area of Bakhmut.”

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will also meet Zelenskiy in New York on Wednesday, the office of the Brazilian presidency said on Monday.

Lula has advocated the creation of a group of nations to mediate an end to the war between Russia and Ukraine, but in May he stated that both Moscow and Kyiv were to blame for the conflict, angering the US and European states who back Ukrainian resistance to the Russian invasion.

Zelenskiy is expected to seek to convince Lula that the war in Ukraine is not an obstacle to progress for the world’s poor, and that Ukraine’s fate is a legitimate matter for the world, not just Europe.

Last month, the Brazilian leftist leader told reporters neither Zelenskiy nor Russian President Vladimir Putin were ready for peace.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy meets a Ukrainian soldier being treated in the US for war injuries. Photograph: Eduardo Muñoz/Reuters

Lula and Zelenskiy have never met, though they held a video call in March days after Brazil voted for a UN resolution that called for peace and demanded Moscow withdraw its troops.

The Ukrainian government asked for the meeting between Zelenskiy and Lula after the two men did not meet at the G7 summit in the Japanese city of Hiroshima earlier this year.

President Joe Biden is slated to host Zelenskiy on Thursday at the White House, and the Ukrainian leader is expected to meet congressional leaders from both political parties while he is in Washington. Republican House speaker Kevin McCarthy said on Monday he would meet Zelenskiy this week.

In a post on Telegram, Zelenskiy said he also plans to meet military and business officials.

With Reuters and Associated Press

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