‘Everything is on fire’: Ukraine region weathers bombardment

  • A man rides a bicycle past a building damaged by Russian shelling Monday in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

KYIV, Ukraine — Russian attacks laid down a curtain of fire 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 Haidai, the governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, told The Associated Press.

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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% 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 defenses in the Luhansk region,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address. “That really is where the toughest situation is now.”

In the city of Sievierodonetsk, the hot spot 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.”

“It is a sheer catastrophe,” Haidai told the AP in written comments about the plant. “Our positions are being fired at from howitzers, multiple rocket launchers, large-caliber artillery, missile strikes.”

The defense of the chemical plant recalled the besieged Azovstal steel mill in the brutalized city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian troops were pinned down for weeks.

Neighboring Lysychansk, the only city in the Luhansk region that is still fully under Ukrainian control, also was targeted by multiple airstrikes.

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, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland met for about an hour at a Ukrainian-Polish border post with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova. They discussed how the U.S. 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 counselor for war crimes accountability.

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