Everything is pointing to Ukraine starting a winter offensive in Donbass and the possible use of a chemical weapon false flag event to kick it off.
The Ukraine of 2018 is far different than what Europe was expecting. Instead of economic and social reform that was promised at Ukraine's 2014 Euro-maidan coup, the government of Petr Poroshenko is taking a brute force approach to retaining power past the 2019 elections.
European and NGO supporters have been worried that the powers given with Poroshenko's martial law declaration may be too spellbinding for Poroshenko. They are worried Kiev will trample on human and civil rights in Ukraine.
On December 10th, DNR's Eduard Basurin stated they had Intelligence Kiev is going to stage an attack on December 14th, the day before the Ukrainian Orthodox Church votes for Autocephaly (freedom from the Moscow Patriarchate).
Ukraine is going to start their attack from the Mariupol region with a 12,000 man group with over 50 tanks and 40 multiple rocket launchers.
This group will make an offensive drive up the border trying to gain as much of it as possible before the offensive stalls.
From the Saker in September- When Ukraine starts the assault on LDNR, I expect it will be conducted in a similar fashion to 2014. The reason for this is simple. Unless they bought an airforce or large scale surface to surface missiles, the terrain and layout hasn't changed. Trying to blitz in will only go so far before your troops are decimated. The Ukrainians started pounding Donetsk and Lugansk in 2014 to get the republics to defend the cities and then tried to roll in around them.
The first targets to take are the two main roads connecting the cities. Next, Ukraine will probably try to roll in overland and avoid contact as much as possible on the way to the border. In 2014, they had guides taking them across the open land.
The 12000 troops and equipment in Mariupol are there for two reasons. One is to serve Ukrainian propaganda with possibly a feint to draw DPR resources away from where Ukraine wants to be. The other reason is to roll up the entire border while the contact line troops engage DNR and LNR defenses. In 2014, Ukraine did not allocate near enough resources to do this even though other than key border areas the borders were relatively unprotected. This led to Ukrainian Diaspora volunteers sniping locals that were trying to flee the conflict.Kerch
The Kerch incident and its ramifications are still high on the international watch list because United States Special Representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker is saying the Ukrainian ships might have been in international waters when the Russian coast guard fired on and confiscated them.
Part of what's embarrassing about Volker saying that is the Bellingcat report he gleaned this from used Google maps to make the assessment and according to the author, Russia was 500 yards over the territorial line. Bellingcat should invest in better resources because they made US Rep to Ukraine Volker look foolish because of this mistake.
Going further, Ukraine is claiming the right to transit through the strait without using the established procedures including using a channel pilot to guide the ships through safely. Russia is saying Ukraine refused to call the Kerch Port ahead to set up passage through the Kerch Strait and this neglect was for the purpose of creating an international incident.
Ukraine took warships through the Strait in September with Russian escort. This is a matter of record that was even videoed. However, directly after, the Ukrainian Navy called it a victory saying they did not call or confirm transit or use a pilot to navigate the shallow channel.
The passage of Ukraine's navy through the Strait in September was clearly recorded as was this latest attempt in November. If the September record, which includes video is looked at, the accepted law and procedure in place can be shown.
Most western sources are saying the Russians violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This is a misnomer because the Azov Sea is considered a private internal sea by both Ukraine and Russia. It is not the high sea and it contains no exclusive economic zones. Either case would have made the UNCLOS applicable.
The text of the 2003 agreement between Ukraine and Russia favors Russia in this instance.
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