Zelenskiy says Ukraine needs more arms to stop Russian advances

By Anastasiia Malenko

KYIV (Reuters) - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Thursday that Ukraine could stop Russian forces advancing in the east if allied countries increased the supply of arms.

The Ukrainian leader made the comments at a joint news conference in Kyiv with the European Parliament's visiting President Roberta Metsola, more than two years after Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

Russia has been making small but steady territorial gains in the east of the country since the start of the year, with Ukraine's forces depleted and weapons and ammunition running perilously low.

"We are putting maximum pressure on our partners to increase weapon deliveries," Zelenskiy said at an open air briefing in the centre of the capital.

"If the delivery of weapons is increased, we will be able to stop (Russian forces) in the east, where they have the initiative."

As he spoke, air raid sirens started to blare, a reminder of the threat of Russian missile and drone attacks which have intensified across the country, causing power outages for hundreds of thousands of civilians.

"This is their true attitude to peace," Zelenskiy said in reference to Russia, as officials began moving towards a shelter. Metsola was in Kyiv on Europe Day, which celebrates peace and unity across the continent.

"How are you feeling Roberta?" he asked, turning to Metsola who was standing a few metres away.

"I am alright but, as you say, it's Europe Day. Look at this, now I get an idea of what you live through every day," she replied.

Ukrainian troops withdrew from three eastern villages in late April, and Ukraine's top commander has said the situation at the front had worsened.

The U.S. decision to approve a huge military aid bill last month was welcomed by Kyiv, but many units have yet to receive new arms and warn that time is running out.

Zelenskiy acknowledged Ukraine's need for more troops, saying that the lack of forces was creating a "difficult situation" near Avdiivka, a town Russia has captured, and Pokrovsk, which is still in Ukrainian hands.

Additional brigades need to be equipped as they arrive to hold back Russian forces, Zelenskiy said, making aid that is "weeks and months away" more pressing.

"Deliveries are taking place but not in the amounts that were ... voted for," he said.

Zelenskiy added that increased domestic production of drones and artillery shells had helped Ukraine in its battle against Russia's continued onslaughts.

(Reporting by Anastasiia Malenko; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)