Zelenskyy to make second trip to the US this week as Ukraine fires 6 deputy defense ministers

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to make his second trip to the United States Tuesday, 18 months since the start of the war in Ukraine, as more Republican lawmakers question additional American assistance amid Kyiv’s slow-moving and inconclusive counteroffensive.

Zelenskyy will come to New York and speak before the 78th opening of the United Nations General Assembly where he is expected to pitch himself before developing nations who have swayed in allegiance toward Russia, the New York Times reported. 

President Biden also will be in New York through Wednesday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed at a White House press conference Friday.

‘[Biden’s] eager to use this trip to advance U.S. interests on a range of issues from mobilizing financial resources for the global south for development and infrastructure, to galvanizing cooperation to tackle the climate crisis, to strengthening global support for Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity as it defends itself against Russia’s brutal invasion,’ Sullivan said.

Ukraine’s president will also travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional leadership and visit the White House. 

Sullivan said Biden will host Zelenskyy during what will be their third meeting at the White House as ‘Russia desperately seeks help from North Korea for its brutal war in Ukraine as Ukrainian forces continue to make progress in their counteroffensive and just after the next Ukraine defense contact room meeting that Secretary [of Defense Llyod] Austin is organizing with dozens of our allies and partners in Europe earlier next week as we continue to coordinate the provision of arms and equipment to help Ukrainian forces.’

Zelenskyy’s visit comes as Congress considers Biden’s latest request for $24 billion in added military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The Times reported that Zelenskyy is expected to shift the tone of his messaging after he was criticized for scolding his allies and appearing ungrateful as he demanded more weapons from them. 

At the NATO summit hosted in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July, the then-British defense minister Ben Wallace remarked, ‘Like it or not, people want to see a bit more gratitude.’ At the same summit, Sullivan publicly agreed that ‘the American people do deserve a degree of gratitude’ for ammunition, air-defense systems, armored vehicles and mine-clearing equipment.

Biden’s address to the UN Tuesday will lay out the ‘steps he and his administration has taken to advance a vision of American leadership that is built on the premise of working with others to solve the world’s most pressing problems,’ Sullivan said Friday. This comes on the heels of Biden’s trip to the G-20 summit.

Meanwhile, six Ukrainian deputy defense ministers were fired Monday following the dismissal two weeks ago of Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in a corruption scandal, officials said, as heavy fighting continued in the east. Deputy defense ministers including Hanna Maliar, Vitalii Deyneha and Denys Sharapov, as well as state secretary of the Ministry of Defense Kostiantyn Vashchenko, were fired, according to the Telegram account of Taras Melnychuk, permanent representative of the Cabinet of Ministers.

Melnychuk provided no explanation of the firings, but the government has been investigating accusations of corruption in the military related to purchasing equipment, according to the Associated Press. Rustem Umerov, a Crimean Tatar lawmaker who took over as defense minister, did not immediately issue a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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