Russian attacks laid down a curtain of fire on Tuesday across areas of eastern Ukraine where pockets of resistance are denying Moscow full military control of the region, almost four months after the Kremlin unleashed its invasion. “Today everything that can burn is on fire,” Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, told Associated Press. Russia’s war has caused alarm over food supplies from Ukraine to the rest of the world and gas supplies from Russia, as well as raising questions about security in western Europe. The Russian military currently controls about 95 per cent of the Luhansk region. But Moscow has struggled for weeks to overrun it completely, despite deploying additional troops and possessing a massive advantage in military assets. “With the help of tactical movements, the Ukrainian army is strengthening defences in the Luhansk region,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address. “That really is where the toughest situation is now.” In the city of Sievierodonetsk, the hotspot of the fighting, Ukrainian defenders held on to the Azot chemical plant in the industrial outskirts. About 500 civilians are sheltering at the plant, and Haidai said the Russian forces are turning the area “into ruins”. Despite Western weapons, Ukraine is outgunned in the east “It is a sheer catastrophe,” Gaidai said in written comments about the plant. “Our positions are being fired at from howitzers, multiple rocket launchers, large-calibre artillery, missile strikes.” The defence of the chemical plant recalled the besieged Azovstal steel mill in the brutalised city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian troops were pinned down for weeks. Neighbouring Lysychansk, the only city in the Luhansk region that is still fully under Ukrainian control, also was targeted by multiple air strikes. The airstrikes on Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk ruined more than 10 residential buildings and a police station. In the city of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, a school burned down as the result of the shelling, the president’s office said. The Luhansk and Donetsk regions make up the Donbas. Separately, US Attorney General Merrick Garland met Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova for about an hour at a Ukrainian-Polish border post. They discussed how the US can help identify, apprehend and prosecute anyone involved in war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine. “We and our partners will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable,” Garland said in a statement. Garland also tapped Eli Rosenbaum – a 36-year Justice Department veteran who headed efforts to identify and deport Nazi war criminals – as counsellor for war crimes accountability. He will coordinate efforts to hold accountable those responsible for war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, also came under heavy Russian shelling on Tuesday. Governor Oleh Syniehubov said 15 civilians were killed and 16 wounded in Kharkiv and elsewhere in the region. Zelensky said the attacks in the Kharkiv region were especially “cruel and cynical” because they brought no clear benefit to the Russian forces. “The Russian army is deaf to any rationality. It simply destroys, simply kills, and in this way it shows its command that it is not really standing in place,” he said in his video address. Putin alert for signs of eroding Western unity on Ukraine Speaking on Tuesday to graduates of Russian military academies at a lavish Kremlin reception, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the Russian armed forces as heirs to the country’s “legendary” military traditions. “The country is now going through another series of trials,” he said, expressing confidence that Russia will overcome all the challenges. “There is no doubt that we will become even stronger,” he added.