OSCE - Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

01/07/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 01/07/2020 09:46

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 7 January 2020

SUMMARY

Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy, Russian Federation. The Observer Mission (OM) continues to operate 24/7 at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs).

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.

Due to the Russian National holidays, the OM was not able to receive and process the usual data on persons crossing at the two border checkpoints from the regional authorities.

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.

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 15, compared to 20 last week: eight of them crossed into the Russian Federation, and seven into Ukraine (73 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, one family were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and two families were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when five families were observed crossing to the Russian Federation and four 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. 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 decrease in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (343 compared to 597 observed during the previous week). There were 186 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 157 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.

Trucks

During the reporting period, the OTs observed a decrease in overall number of trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (81 compared to 595 during the previous reporting week);56 at the Gukovo BCP and 25 at the Donetsk BCP, 60 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 21 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 Belarus, the Russian Federation and 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 47 to 20. 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 decreased from 66 to zero.

Minivans

The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans[1] 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 decreased from 153 to 72 vehicles; 34 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 38 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 21 occasions; the OTs assessed that 12 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and nine 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 'DPR' plates.

On 2 January at 11:51, an ambulance with Russian Federation licence plates entered the Gukovo BCP from the direction of the Russian Federation. The OT observed a woman leaving the main building and getting into the ambulance. At 12:04, the ambulance returned to the Russian Federation.

On 4 January at 09:24, the OT observed a white minivan type 'Gazelle' with Russian licence plates entering the Donetsk BCP from the Russian Federation side and crossing the border to Ukraine. The vehicle had signs 'Ritual' and 'Cargo 200' on its windshield written in Russian.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 3 December to 7 January 2020, please see the attachment here

[1] 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).