Ukraine Crisis Update: June 10, 2015

Russian-backed separatists maintained heightened offensive operations along the front line in the week following the June 3 assault on Ukrainian forces west of Donetsk. Attacks intensified near the H20 and T1303 highways which respectively link the separatist-held capitals of Donetsk and Luhansk to the major government-controlled cities of Mariupol and Sievierodonetsk. Separatists may launch offensive maneuvers around these key highways in order to capture additional terrain and improve their capacity to coordinate eventual encirclement maneuvers around the strategic port city of Mariupol and Artemivsk, a gateway to northern Donetsk Oblast that lies southwest of Sievierodonetsk. On June 8, the separatists released a document outlining their proposed amendments to the Ukrainian constitution regarding the issue of autonomy in the Donbas. One proposal included the creation of local election commissions under the control of the separatist leadership, reinforcing a key point of disagreement  with Kyiv and its desire to administer internationally-monitored local elections. The timing of this release following the re-ignition of separatist maneuver operations offers further evidence that Russia and Russian-backed separatists are leveraging the application of military force as a negotiating tactic.