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Ukraine live briefing: At UNGA, Biden says support for Ukraine deters ‘would-be aggressors’

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)

President Biden called on fellow world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City to continue to back Ukraine to “deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow.” His speech sought to catalyze military aid and other support for Kyiv at a time when the war’s popularity appears to be flagging in the United States and abroad.

“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.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will also address the assembly on Tuesday, his first in-person visit since the invasion began, as he aims to galvanize support for his embattled country and promote Ukraine’s food security, defense and recovery initiatives. 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.

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 told the U.N. Assembly on Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are not scheduled to attend the U.N. summit this week.

Zelensky is expected to use his address to emphasize how the Kremlin’s invasion violates the United Nations’ most sacred principle of sovereignty of borders. “He will put forward some very specific steps that the organization can take to fortify the principle of territorial integrity,” Kuleba told The Post. “We are now at a critical juncture in time, as Ukraine continues to advance on the battlefield, and it is critical to sustain and strengthen worldwide support for Ukraine.”

Zelensky is also 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. “The visit will reaffirm the unbreakable Ukrainian American partnership in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression and our shared determination to put an end to it through a Ukrainian victory,” he added.

A Moscow City Court on Tuesday rejected Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s appeal of his pretrial detention, according to the Russian state news agency Interfax. U.S. Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy attended the hearing. Gershkovich was arrested in March and charged with espionage, allegations he strongly denies. The Wall Street 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 orally.

“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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