As Zelensky arrives at U.N. to pitch for support, Russian drones hit Lviv

KYIV — As Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky prepared to address the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Tuesday — his first in-person appearance there since Russia’s invasion of his country — Russian forces launched an overnight missile and drone attack that pummeled cities as far west as Lviv, where officials said a humanitarian aid warehouse was destroyed.

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

For last year’s General Assembly, Zelensky remained in Kyiv and addressed the gathering by video. At the time, his military was engaged in a far more successful, lightning-quick operation that ousted Russian troops from the northeast Kharkiv region.

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

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

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

Zelensky was also scheduled to attend a meeting of the U.N. Security Council and “hold a number of important bilateral talks,” Kuleba said, without providing further details. Zelensky, he said, will “put forward some very specific steps” that the United Nations can implement “to fortify the principle of territorial integrity.”

“We are now at a critical juncture in time, as Ukraine continues to advance on the battlefield,” Kuleba said, “and it is critical to sustain and strengthen worldwide support for Ukraine.”

Despite Kyiv’s claims of small and steady territorial gains, concerns have mounted in the West that the war could be hardening into a protracted, possibly years-long conflict. Such a scenario would potentially benefit Russia, which has a much larger military and larger population to draw soldiers from. It could also have grave economic repercussions internationally.

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

In the United States, some American lawmakers, particularly House Republicans, are questioning the high price tag of continuing economic and military support to Ukraine, estimated to be about $73 billion globally.

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