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OSCE - Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

02/09/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/09/2021 04:43

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 9 February 2021

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 Mission members, including the Chief Observer (CO). The Mission is supported administratively by a staff member and the Chief of Fund Administration based in Vienna.

Update on COVID-19 measures

Activities have been impacted by COVID-19 and measures undertaken by the OM to ensure the safety and duty of care of its Mission members and compliance with measures set by the host country authorities. The Mission is continuing to keep the situation under review, in close contact with the OSCE Secretariat and the Chairmanship. Following the host country recommendations, the observers are adhering to social distancing. Due to the preventive measures taken by the central and regional authorities, the OM is faced with certain difficulties, but is still able to continue to fulfil its mandate without any limitations in its observation and reporting activities.

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 7,017 to 6,932 per day at both BCPs compared to last week[1].

During the reporting period, the majority of border crossings were to the Russian Federation, with an average net flow of 176 per day for both BCPs. The Donetsk BCP continued to experience much more traffic than the Gukovo BCP.

Responding to the COVID-19 situation, the host country has closed its borders for the majority of foreigners starting from 18 March 2020. Among the exceptions of persons allowed to cross the border (which entered into force on 19 March), are Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons holding passports or identification documents proving permanent residence in certain areas of Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine. In addition, reportedly, due to the threat of the spread of COVID-19, starting from 10 April 2020, the organized passenger transport commuting between the non-government-controlled areas of Luhansk region of Ukraine and the Russian Federation was temporarily suspended and restored from 25 June.

Persons in military-style outfits

During the reporting period, the number of persons in military-style outfits crossing the border was 14, compared to eight last week; four persons crossed into the Russian Federation while another ten persons crossed into Ukraine. These individuals crossed the border on foot.

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, five families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation while one family was observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when seven families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and two families were observed crossing into 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. During the reporting period, the OTs observed a slight decrease in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (277 compared to 285 observed during the previous week). There were 148 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 129 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.

Trucks

During the reporting period, the OTs observed a slight decrease in the overall number of trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (777 compared to 787 during the previous reporting week); 397 at the Gukovo BCP and 380 at the Donetsk BCP, 377 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 400 crossed into 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 the Russian Federation, Belarus, Lithuania and trucks with 'LPR' plates.

The OTs also continued to observe tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. During the reporting period, the OTs observed a slight increase in the overall number of tanker trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (45 compared to 35 during the previous reporting week). 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 the 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 decreased from 135 to 103. The entire number of 103 scanned trucks (100 per cent) was bound for Ukraine.

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 saw minivans registered in the Russian Federation. During the reporting period, the OTs observed a decrease in the overall number of minivans crossing the border at both BCPs (117 compared to 141 observed during the previous week); 63 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 54 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 17 occasions; the OTs assessed that eight trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and the remaining nine trains were travelling to Ukraine (more details are provided in the sections 'trends and figures at a glance' below).

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 noticed vehicles with Belarusian, Georgian and Lithuanian licence plates.

During the reporting week, the OTs at Donetsk BCP observed groups of brand-new vehicles on three separate occasions:

On 4 February at 14:53, a group of seven brand-new vehicles with no licence plates, entered the BCP from the Russian Federation and parked at the customs control area. The group consisted of four tractors type Belarus 82.1; two tractors type LOVOL FL 936H and one flatbed truck type MAZ carrying a tractor type XCMG LW 550RU. Six tractors (Belarus and LOVOL) underwent customs control procedures and left for Ukraine at 21:49. The flatbed truck crossed the border into Ukraine on 5 February at 13:00, after undergoing custom control procedures.

On 5 February at 15:47, a group of six brand-new yellow ambulances type GAZelle with no licence plates, accompanied by a white ambulance type PEUGEOT with 'LPR' plates entered the BCP from the Russian Federation and parked at the customs control area. The OT noticed only a driver inside each vehicle. All the vehicles underwent customs control procedures and left for Ukraine at 18:00.

On 8 February at 13:15, a group of two brand-new white passenger buses type PAZ 320414 Vector entered the BCP from the Russian Federation and parked in the customs control area. The buses had no licence plates. Both vehicles underwent customs control procedures and left for Ukraine at 17:00.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 5 January 2020 to 9 February 2021, please see the attachment here.

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

[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).