Zelensky met a group of wounded Ukrainian soldiers at Staten Island University Hospital

Staten Island:

As he surveyed the missing limbs and grieving faces of wounded Ukrainian soldiers being treated at a U.S. hospital, President Volodymyr Zelensky had one word for Russian leaders heading to a crucial U.N. summit: “terrorists.” Zelensky arrived in New York on Monday to address the United Nations General Assembly and appeal for more help as Ukraine pushes a high-risk counteroffensive to retake territory from Russian forces more than 18 months after the war began.

Before meeting with world leaders, Zelensky went to Staten Island University Hospital, where a group of Ukrainian soldiers are receiving prosthetic arms and legs and rehabilitation.

In a large hospital room, the Ukrainian president watched as several soldiers in khaki uniforms practiced walking and lifting weights with newly acquired prosthetic legs and arms.

Zelensky chatted with the soldiers and shook their hands – if they had one.

Even as he tried to lift the soldiers’ spirits, the Ukrainian leader was visibly shaken.

“Is it hard?” Zelensky asked a soldier.

“A little,” came the answer.

Another soldier, from the Zaporizhzhia region of southern Ukraine, where heavy fighting was taking place, tried to put on a brave face.

“How are you doing? Is it difficult?” Zelensky asked.

The soldier paused, then replied, “It’s okay.”

“Stay strong,” demanded Zelensky.

Nine Ukrainian soldiers are currently being treated in hospital. According to hospital staff and the Ukrainian-American NGO Kind Deeds, which provides prostheses for war amputees, the clinic helped a total of 35 soldiers last year.

Kiev does not release war casualty figures, but U.S. officials estimate the number of dead and wounded Ukrainian soldiers at nearly 500,000, the New York Times reported last month.

“Come home soon, thank you for your service,” Zelensky told the soldiers as he left the room.

In another room, Zelensky, flanked by medical personnel, told another group of soldiers that their American doctors were amazed by the Ukrainian soldiers’ resilience and dedication.

“He said, ‘I’ve never seen people who feel such a strong desire to return home,’” Zelensky said of a doctor. “We will all be waiting for you to come home. We absolutely need every single one of you, every strong Ukrainian fighter, to defeat our enemy. I believe it will happen for sure.”

Zelensky then presented some soldiers and hospital workers with Ukrainian state awards.

When asked by a journalist about the possibility of ending up in the same room with Russian representatives during the general assembly, Zelenskyy turned gloomy.

“It is very important for us that all our words, all our messages are heard by our partners,” Zelensky said. “Whether there is still … a place for Russian terrorists in the United Nations is not a question for me – I think it is a question for all member states.”

Zelensky posed for photos with soldiers, including one who wore prosthetic arms for both arms and appeared deeply traumatized. After the photo was taken, Zelensky helped the soldier sit back down.

Zelensky was on the move because of his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

“I wish you victory and a return home,” he said to the soldiers.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

Source : www.ndtv.com

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