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Ukraine's Zelenskiy says frontline situation better than in prior three months

Turkey’s President Erdogan and his Ukrainian counterpart Zelenskiy hold a press conference in Istanbul

(Reuters) - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Monday that the situation along the front of Ukraine's war with Russia was the best it had been in three months, with Moscow's troops no longer advancing after their capture last month of the eastern city of Avdiivka.

Zelenskiy, in an interview with France's BFM television, said Ukraine had improved its strategic position despite shortages of weaponry, but suggested the situation could change again if new supplies were not forthcoming.

"The situation is much better than it has been over the past three months," Zelenskiy said in comments voiced over in French.

"We have had some difficulties because of shortages of artillery shells, an air blockade, Russian long range weapons and the great intensity of Russian drone attacks.

"We have worked in very efficient fashion... against Russian aviation. We have recovered in our situation in the east. The advance of Russian troops has been stopped," he said.

Russia's capture of Avdiivka gave the Kremlin's forces breathing room in defending the Russia-held regional centre of Donetsk, 20 kilometres (12 miles) to the east.

Russian troops subsequently seized a cluster of villages near the Avdiivka. But in the past week, Ukrainian military spokespersons have said that Russian forces were no longer advancing and Ukrainian troops had improved their position.

Russian troops had levelled everything in months of bombardments of Avdiivka, Zelenskiy said. "We can no longer speak of a city as everything has been destroyed in Avdiivka."

Russian forces, he said, enjoyed superiority in terms of long range weapons. "an advance of 20 km on us".

Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces had downed large numbers of Russian aircraft and "continue to act in a strong manner in the Black Sea," where Russian military targets have come under repeated attack.

And Kyiv's forces had built up three lines of fortifications over more than 1,000 km of territory, he added.

Zelenskiy also said he believed a Russian missile strike in Odesa while he and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis were visiting the port city last week showed that Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin had "taken leave of the real world".

"Was he aiming at me? That's not what matters now," he said. "When you make a cruise missile strike a few hundred metres from a European leader, I think you have to be truly ill."

(Reporting by Ron Popeski; Editing by Bill Berkrot)