Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited with Northwell Health’s president and CEO Michael Dowling at the healthcare system’s Staten Island University Hospital yesterday to recognize Northwell’s continued efforts to support medical providers in Ukraine.
In town to address the United Nations General Assembly over human rights issues related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Zelenskyy also met with wounded Ukrainian soldiers who received advanced prosthetics and critical rehabilitation after sustaining devastating injuries in the Russian invasion.
Zelenskyy presented Dowling with Ukraine’s Order of Merit, a special distinction awarded to individuals for outstanding achievements to honor the administrator’s exceptional leadership toward providing vital medical care to Ukraine.
“Thank you very much to everybody, to our soldiers and their relatives. I see some of them sitting here with their wives, sisters, and mothers,” President Zelenskyy said. “Thank you to the staff and doctors who gave them the possibility for one dream: to live and to come back to us – home.”
Long Island-based Northwell’s Ukraine Relief Fund is earmarked for the aid of Ukrainian soldiers and hospitals. The health system operates South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, Huntington Hospital and Peconic Bay Medical Center, among other healthcare facilities across Long Island.
“It’s our privilege to help in any way we possibly can. What you’re doing, Mr. President, is absolutely extraordinary. What happens in Ukraine, is important to all of us,” Dowling said. “This is not an issue for just over there, it’s an issue that affects us here.
“And as you said on television last night, this is a protection of democracy and a western way of life, so we thank you for everything you’re doing.” Dowling continued, noting Zelensky’s appearance on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
Hundreds of medical facilities in Ukraine have been attacked since the start of the conflict in early 2022, leaving the country in desperate need for medical assistance from outside the country.
Speaking at the United Nations in Manhattan today, Zelenskyy said Russia is “weaponizing” everything from food and energy to abducted children in its war against Ukraine — and he warned world leaders that the same could happen to them.
“When hatred is weaponized against one nation, it never stops there,” he said at the U.N. General Assembly’s annual top-level meeting. “The goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our land, our people, our lives, our resources into weapons against you — against the international rules-based order.”
He pointed to the war’s effect on fuel and food supplies. And he highlighted what Ukraine says were at least tens of thousands of children taken from their families after Moscow’s invasion: “What will happen to them?”
“Those children in Russia are taught to hate Ukraine, and all ties with their families are broken. And this is clearly a genocide,” Zelenskyy said.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant in March for Russian President Vladimir Putin and another official, accusing them of abducting children from Ukraine. Russian officials have denied any forced transfers of children, saying some Ukrainian children are in foster care.
Russia will address the General Assembly on Saturday, when Foreign Minister Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected on the rostrum.
Zelenskyy took to the world stage at a sensitive point in his country’s campaign to maintain international support for its fight. Nearly 19 months after Moscow launched a full-scale invasion, Ukrainian forces are three months into a counteroffensive that has not gone as fast or as well as initially hoped.
Ukraine and its allies cast the country’s cause as a battle for the rule of international law, for the sovereignty of every country with a powerful and potentially expansionist neighbor, and for the stability of global supplies that have been rocked by the war. The commodity upheaval has triggered inflation and caused serious hardships for poor countries.
Some nations pledge more support
Ukraine is concerned that backing from its allies may be ebbing. They have supplied billions of dollars’ worth of arms but fear that their stockpiles are shrinking and that defense contractors are struggling to boost production lines.
Hours before Zelenskyy spoke at the U.N., allied defense leaders convened at a U.S. military base in Germany to discuss next steps.
Some nations pledged further money and weapons. But a key sticking point is whether to supply longer-range missiles that Kyiv insists it needs in order to hit Russian troops and facilities from a safe distance — as far as about 180 miles (300 kilometers) away. The U.S. is wary of the request, worried that Ukraine could use such weapons to strike deep into Russian territory and provoke Moscow.
The U.S. Congress is currently weighing President Biden’s request to provide as much as $24 billion more in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, amid a growing partisan divide over spending on the conflict. Zelenskyy is scheduled to spend time Thursday on Capitol Hill and to meet with Biden at the White House.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photos: Courtesy of Northwell Health