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Ukraine's Zelenskiy hails arrival of new air defence systems

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visits Riga

(Reuters) - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy welcomed the arrival on Friday of two new air defence systems that he said could "shoot down anything".

Zelenskiy also said that he and his top commanders had discussed conditions along the 1000-km (600-mile) frontline of the war against Russia, singling out the situation in the beleaguered town of Avdiivka as "extraordinarily difficult".

In his nightly video address, the president pointedly said he could give no details of the newly arrived air defence systems but described them as the culmination of "working tirelessly at various levels for months".

"But these are systems that can shoot down anything," he said. "We will be protecting the regions. And while the systems are not yet sufficient for the complete defence of Ukraine, we are working towards that goal every day."

Beefing up air defence has been one of the key priorities for defending cities, towns and infrastructure against Russian missile and drone attacks.

Zelenskiy has previously lauded the U.S.-made Patriot air defence system as critical to safeguarding Ukrainian skies and able to down all types of Russian missiles.

And U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland said in Kyiv this week that a new "small-diameter" bomb able to hit targets at greater distances would soon arrive in the country.

Zelenskiy's account of Friday's command meeting said one of the reports was presented by Armed Forces Commander in Chief Valery Zaluzhnyi. Unconfirmed news reports have suggested this week that the president intended to fire the commander.

The two men have had differences for months about the conduct of the war after last year's Ukrainian counter-offensive produced only limited results.

Zelenskiy said "special attention" had been given at the meeting to the situation in Avdiivka, which has been under sustained Russian attack for more than three months. Officials say not a single building in the town remains intact.

The General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces, in its evening report, said its forces had repelled 19 attacks around the town in eastern Donetsk region and a further 10 in nearby areas.

The town was briefly captured in 2014 by pro-Russian forces who seized large chunks of territory but later retaken by Ukraine. It is seen as a gateway to the regional centre of the Russian-held city of Donetsk, about 20 km to the east.

A former Ukrainian commander, Yevhen Dykiy, told the Espreso TV media outlet that Russian forces would be unable to seize Avdiivka through frontal attacks but they were getting closer to the sole road bringing in supplies.

"There is a risk that the Ukrainian armed forces may have to withdraw from Avdiivka," Dykiy said.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski and Oleksandr Kozhukhar; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)