A woman walks past apartment blocks that were destroyed in a Russian missile strike, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Selydove near Avdiivka, Ukraine, 19 February 2024; Credit: Reuters/Thomas Peter

(Reuters) - President Volodymyr Zelensky downplayed Ukraine's loss of the eastern town of Avdiivka to Russian forces and called for faster support from allies as the war against Russia neared the two-year mark, in comments broadcast on Wednesday 21 February 2024.

Russian troops took control of Avdiivka last week in Moscow's biggest battlefield gain since its forces captured Bakhmut last May. Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin says Russia will press on with its drive through eastern Ukraine.

Zelensky, in excerpts from an interview with Fox News to be aired on Thursday 22 February 2024, acknowledged that last year had been "complicated" for Ukraine, particularly as 2023 came to a close.

But, speaking in English, he pointed to earlier gains, particularly in the northeastern Kharkiv region, where the Fox interview took place.

"During these two years, we got [back] part of the Kharkiv region. Now we are in this region [...] and we unblocked the Black Sea. There are grain routes and we destroyed a lot of their ships of the Russian fleet," Zelensky said. "That is what we did over two years. And what they could do? Only this one place. But what for?"

Avdiivka lies 15 km northwest of the Russian-held main town of Donetsk region, also named Donetsk.

Russian analysts say its capture will keep Donetsk safe from Ukrainian shelling as Moscow considers how to pursue its drive to capture all of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

In his comments, Zelensky expressed new discontent with the slowdown in Western aid for Ukraine's war effort, without singling out the United States.

US President Joe Biden's request to extend a big aid package has been held up by wrangling in the US Congress.

"We have to be more quick. That means to lose all the bureaucracy. Otherwise we will not have any chance," he said.

The president acknowledged that finding an alternative to US support would not be easy.

"Of course, we will find. We will not stay in the same place. We have to survive. We have to find some parallel steps," he said in the interview, conducted in part on a hospital ward.

"You understand that this help is crucial. So without it, sorry, we will have more and more such heroic guys who will be in the hospitals. If you don't have a real defending shield and similar powerful artillery with rounds, of course you will lose people."

The US Senate has passed a $95 billion aid package that includes funds for Ukraine, but House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson has declined to bring it up for a vote on the floor of the House.