Clashes between Ukrainian and Russian-supported separatist forces have been occurring with increasing frequency in eastern Ukraine. Two soldiers have been killed in action and over a dozen seriously injured according to sources in the Ukrainian government. According to the Ukrainian military, separatist forces have launched over 61 attacks on Ukrainian positions over the past 24 hours. In some cases, separatist forces used heavy artillery and high caliber mortars in violation of the terms hammered out in the Minsk Agreement. Most of the attacks came in the Mariupol sector, a strategically significant area for both sides in the conflict. Smaller numbers of attacks were made in the Luhansk and Donetsk sectors, however, it seems probable that a primary objective of a separatist offensive in the coming days will be the capture of Mariupol.
The Ukrainian military is warning of a possible Russian provocation being prepared along the separation line in eastern Ukraine. A military spokesman has stated that separatists are preparing to destroy one of their forward positons while Russian television crews are conveniently nearby to film it. The goal will be to show ‘proof’ that the Ukraine is using heavy artillery in violation of the Minsk Agreement. Judging from the amount of details provided by the spokesperson, it seems likely that Ukrainian officials received reliable intelligence on the matter.
Such a provocation, whether real or staged, would provide Russia with a casus belli to unleash the separatists on a renewed offensive. This planned provocation, coupled with the uptick in fighting suggest that the separatists have nearly completed their preparations and an offensive is coming in the near future.
Enjoy the weekend. More updates will come as events unfold.