Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 10 January 2017

This report is for 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.

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 20 permanent international staff members, including the Chief Observer (CO). The Mission is supported administratively by a Vienna-based staff member.

OBSERVATIONS AT THE BORDER CROSSING POINTS

Persons crossing the border

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

Adults travelling on foot or by car with little or no luggage; Persons in military-style outfits; Families (often including elderly people and/or children) travelling on foot or by car with a significant amount of luggage. The average number of entries/exits decreased overall from 9,383 to 6,236 per day for both BCPs compared to last week. The average net flow for both BCPs went from minus 2,124 (i.e. more exits from the Russian Federation) to plus 2,634 (i.e. more entries to the Russian Federation).

The Donetsk BCP continues to experience more traffic than the Gukovo BCP. The cross-border movements registered at both BCPs accounted for 25.4 per cent of all entries/exits in Rostov region [1].

Persons in military-style outfits

During the reporting period, the number of persons in military-style outfits crossing the border in both directions was 85 this week at both BCPs compared to 92 last week; 49 of them crossed into the Russian Federation, 36 into Ukraine. Approximately 75 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 by 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 many of the private vehicles have tinted windows, and buses and minivans have drawn curtains.

Families with a significant amount of luggage

The OTs continue to report on families crossing the border, sometimes with elderly people and/or children, crossing at both BCPs with a significant amount of luggage, or travelling in heavily loaded cars. During this reporting period four such families were observed crossing the border into Ukraine and three were observed crossing into the Russian Federation.

Bus connections

Regular local and long-distance bus connections continue 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 do not state their route; instead they just have a sign on the windshield stating “Irregular”.

Among the bus connections observed by the OTs, the following “irregular” routes or destinations were noted: Stakhanov-Kyiv, Kyiv-Pervomaysk and Sevastopol.

On some occasions, the OTs noticed the bus drivers removing the itinerary signs from the windshields of their buses, or some buses don’t display their route at all. The majority of long-distance coaches commuting between Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation have Ukrainian licence plates issued in Luhansk region.

Trucks

The OM continued to observe trucks crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. Compared to the previous week, the total number of trucks decreased from 304 to 194 (67 in Gukovo BCP and 127 in Donetsk BCP); 141 of these trucks crossed to the Russian Federation and 53 crossed to Ukraine. Most of the trucks observed by the OTs have Ukrainian licence plates issued in Luhansk region. During the reporting week trucks with Belarusian and “LPR” licence plates were also observed.

Separately, the OTs also observed tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. The number of tanker trucks decreased from 39 last week compared to 37 this week. These trucks were observed crossing the border at both BCPs. The trucks mainly had the words “Propane” and “Flammable” written across the tanks in either Russian or Ukrainian. The majority of tanker trucks have hazard signs, indicating that they are transporting propane or a mix of propane with butane.

All trucks undergo systematic inspection by Russian Federation officials, which may include an X-ray check. Due to the unfavourable position at the Gukovo BCP, the OTs continued to be unable to observe any X-ray checks. At the Donetsk BCP the OTs observed 42 X-ray checks. At the latter BCP, out of the total number of trucks scanned during the reporting period, 50 per cent were bound for Ukraine; the remaining 50 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 Luhansk region; however, the OTs frequently saw minivans registered in the Russian Federation.

Compared to the previous week, the number of cargo minivans decreased from 205 to 176; 92 crossed to the Russian Federation and 84 to Ukraine.

Trains

The OTs continued to pick up the sound of trains running on the train tracks located approximately 150 metres south-west of the Gukovo BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on eight occasions; the OTs estimated that four trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and another four trains were bound for Ukraine. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine was 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 as well as due to unfavourable light conditions.

Other observations

The majority of vehicles crossing the border have Ukrainian licence plates issued in Luhansk region or Russian Federation licence plates. During the reporting week, the OTs continued to observe cars with “LPR” licence plates crossing the border in both directions at Donetsk BCP. Several private cars with Georgian licence plates were also observed crossing the border at both BCPs. The OTs also continued to observe articulated trucks with “LPR” or “Novorossiya” stickers, or in rare cases “DPR” stickers on their licence plates masking the Ukrainian flag.

On 7 January at 03:58hrs the OT in the Donetsk BCP observed a van registered in Ukraine crossing the border from the Russian Federation to Ukraine. The van had the sign “Gruz 200” in an A4 format paper on the inside of its windshield. The OT was not able to ascertain whether there was any coffin inside the van or not.

On 7 January at 09:43hrs the OT in the Donetsk BCP observed a van with “LPR” licence plates with inscription “Funeral Services” on its windshield written in Russian and crossing the border from Ukraine to the Russian Federation. In total, three men and one woman in civilian clothes were observed accompanying the van. However, the OT was not able to ascertain whether there was any coffin inside the van or not.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 6 December 2016 to 10 January 2017 see the attachment here.

[1] Based on data received from Rostov region Border Guard Service

[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).

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