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OSCE - Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

11/05/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 11/05/2019 08:36

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 5 November 2019

This report is for the media and the general public

SUMMARY

Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy, Russian Federation. The Observer Mission (OM) continues to operate 24/7 at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs). The overall number of border crossings by persons decreased at both BCPs compared to the previous week.

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 22 permanent international staff members, including the Chief Observer (CO). The Mission is supported administratively by a staff member and the Chief of Fund Administration based in Vienna.

OBSERVATIONS AT THE BORDER CROSSING POINTS

Persons crossing the border

The profile of persons crossing the border can be categorized as follows:

  1. Adults travelling on foot or by car with little or no luggage;
  2. Persons in military-style outfits;
  3. Families (often including elderly persons and/or children) travelling on foot or by car with a significant amount of luggage.

The average number of entries/exits decreased from 11,562 to 11,388 per day at both BCPs compared to last week[1].

During the reporting period, the majority of border crossings were to Ukraine, with an average net flow of 284 per day for both BCPs.

The Donetsk BCP continued to experience much more traffic than the Gukovo BCP.

Persons in military-style outfits

During the reporting period, the number of persons in military-style outfits crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs was 37 this week compared to 13 last week: 13 of them crossed into the Russian Federation, and 24 into Ukraine (84 per cent of this category's crossings occurred at the Donetsk BCP). They continued to cross the border individually or in groups. Most individuals crossed on foot, however, some made use of private vehicles, buses or minivans, making it more difficult for the observer teams (OTs) to observe their movement across the border, especially since some of the private vehicles had tinted windows, and buses and minivans had drawn curtains.

Families with a significant amount of luggage

The OTs continued to report on families, sometimes with elderly persons and/or children, crossing the border at both BCPs with a significant amount of luggage, or travelling in heavily loaded cars. During this reporting week, two families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and three were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when six families were observed crossing to the Russian Federation and seven to Ukraine.

Bus connections

Regular local and long-distance bus connections continued to operate between Ukraine (mostly from/to the Luhansk region) and the Russian Federation. In addition to regular bus connections, the OTs continued to observe bus connections on irregular routes. Often the buses did not state their route; instead they had a sign on the windshield stating 'irregular'.

During the reporting period, the OTs observed a slight decrease in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (505 compared to 508 observed during the previous week). There were 252 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 253 bound for Ukraine.

On some occasions, the OTs noticed the bus drivers removing the itinerary signs from the windshields of their buses, while some buses did not display their route at all. The majority of long-distance buses commuting between the Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region and 'LPR' plates. Among the bus connections observed by the OTs, the following 'irregular' route was noted: Luhansk - Sevastopol.

Trucks

During the reporting period, the OTs observed 869 trucks (compared to 784 during the previous reporting week) crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs (378 at the Gukovo BCP and 491 at the Donetsk BCP); 490 of these trucks crossed to the Russian Federation and 379 crossed to Ukraine. Most of the trucks observed by the OTs had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region; however, on a daily basis, the OTs also noted trucks registered in Belarus and the Russian Federation and also with 'LPR' plates.

The OTs also continued to observe tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. During the reporting week, the number of tanker trucks decreased from 72 to 51. These trucks were observed crossing the border at both BCPs. The trucks had the words 'Propane' and 'Flammable' written across the tanks in either Russian or Ukrainian. The majority of tanker trucks had hazard signs, indicating that they were transporting propane or a mix of propane and butane.

All trucks underwent systematic inspection by Russian Federation officials, which could include an X-ray check. Due to the unfavourable observation position at the Gukovo BCP, the OTs continued to be unable to observe any X-ray checks.

Compared to the previous week, the total number of X-ray checks at the Donetsk BCP increased from 110 to 163; 99 trucks (61 per cent) were bound for Ukraine, the remaining 64 trucks (39 per cent) crossed into the Russian Federation.

Minivans

The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans[2] crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. The OTs observed minivans predominantly with Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region; however, the OTs also frequently saw minivans registered in the Russian Federation. Compared to the previous week, the number of cargo minivans very slightly increased from 126 to 127 vehicles; 61 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 66 into Ukraine.

Trains

The OTs continued to pick up the sound of trains on the railway tracks located approximately 150m south-west of the Gukovo BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on 12 occasions; the OTs assessed that seven trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and five to Ukraine (more details are provided in the sections 'trends and figures at a glance' below).

The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine was regularly informed about the trains bound for Ukraine.

Visual observation was not possible because of the line of trees located between the train tracks and the BCP.

Other observations

The majority of vehicles crossing the border had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region, or Russian Federation licence plates. A significant number of vehicles with 'LPR' plates were also observed crossing the border in both directions on a daily basis. The OTs also observed cars with licence plates from Georgia and Lithuania.

On 30 October at 23:25, the OT observed an ambulance with Russian Federation licence plates arriving at the Donetsk BCP from the Russian Federation. The vehicle parked in the checking area. Two persons left the vehicle and entered the main building. On 31 October at 00:25, the ambulance returned to the Russian Federation.

On 1 November at 13:55, the OT at Donetsk BCP observed a group of ten small buses entering the BCP from the Russian Federation. The buses were yellow in colour and had the printed inscription 'Children' in Russian on the windshields and on the sides of the vehicles. The buses did not have any licence plates and were empty except for the driver and one passenger in each. At 15:30, all buses crossed the BCP into Ukraine.

On 2 November at 11:55, the OT at Donetsk BCP observed an ambulance entering the BCP from Ukraine and crossing the border into the Russian Federation. The ambulance bore'LPR' plates and the inscription 'Urgent medical help' written in Russian. The OT observed two persons inside the vehicle. On the same day at 12:35, the OT observed an ambulance entering the BCP from the Russian Federation. The ambulance underwent border control procedures and left for Ukraine.

On 2 November at 23:15, the OT at Donetsk BCP observed a minivan crossing the BCP from the Russian Federation to Ukraine. The vehicle had Russian Federation licence plates and bore inscription 'Ritual service' written in Russian.

Convoy

On 31 October at 06:52 (Moscow time), the eighty-seventh[3] Russian convoy arrived at the Donetsk BCP. A total of 13 vehicles were checked by Russian Federation border guards and customs officers prior to their crossing into Ukraine. All 13 vehicles had crossed back into the Russian Federation by 13:39 on 31 October. Ukrainian border guards and custom officers were present during the checking processes.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 1 October to 5 November 2019, please see the attachment here.

[1] Based on data received from the Regional Representation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

[2] Cargo minivans: light commercial vehicles with a maximum authorized mass of more than 3.5 t and not more than 7.5 t; with or without a trailer with a maximum mass of less than 750 kg (small cargo vehicles which correspond to driving licence C1).

[3] Based on the Observer Mission's counting, this convoy is considered the eighty-sevenths convoy that has crossed into Ukraine through the 'Donetsk' or 'Gukovo' BCPs. However, so far all these convoys crossed through the 'Donetsk' BCP.