Ukraine Crisis Update: June 5, 2015

Russian-backed separatists launched an offensive maneuver on June 3 after several weeks of military buildup and an expansion from concentrated shelling to attacks across a coordinated front.  Separatist combined arms forces stormed Ukrainian military positions bordering the western city districts of Donetsk. Ukraine’s military claimed to have repelled the initial maneuver. However, previous patterns of Russian-backed offensive operations suggest that additional assaults will be launched around Ukrainian positions. A sharp uptick in attempted separatist penetration maneuvers and artillery strikes deep into Ukrainian territory in other areas along the front line suggest that the Russian-backed forces may mount a signature tandem offensive  in sync with the maneuver west of Donetsk. A recent shift in separatist targeting to the highways leading north to Artemivsk and south to Mariupol may indicate Russian and separatist preparations for an offensive toward these key government-held cities. As Russia and the separatists demonstrated in Ilovaisk in August 2014 and Debaltseve in February 2015, a tandem offensive would isolate Ukraine’s frontline forces and prevent them from organizing a cohesive defense.