Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 17 October 2017

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 increased at both BCPs compared to the previous week.

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 20 permanent international staff members, including the Acting 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:

  1. Adults travelling on foot or by car with little or no luggage;

  2. Persons in military-style outfits;

  3. 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 increased from 10,982 to 11,281 per day for both BCPs compared to last week. The average net flow for both BCPs went from plus 39 to plus 27 (i.e. more entries into 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 37.9 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 79 this week at both BCPs compared to 93 last week; 37 of them crossed into the Russian Federation, 42 into Ukraine. Approximately 70 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

On some occasions, 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, at the BCPs two families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and four families into Ukraine.

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 have a sign on the windshield stating “irregular”.

During the reporting period the OTs observed 480 buses crossing the border at both BCPs, 243 of them were bound for the Russian Federation and 237 for Ukraine. Fifteen out of those 480 buses were connecting Ukrainian towns through the Russian Federation (circumventing the contact line).

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

Trucks

During the reporting period the OM observed a decrease in the number of trucks crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. Compared to the previous week, the total number of trucks decreased from 751 to 725 (204 in Gukovo BCP and 521 in Donetsk BCP); 423 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 302 crossed into Ukraine. Most of the trucks observed by the OTs had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region.

Separately, the OTs also observed tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. The number of tanker trucks slightly decreased from 59 to 56. 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 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 115 X-ray checks: out of the total number of trucks scanned during the reporting period, 95 trucks (83 per cent) were bound for Ukraine; the remaining 20 trucks (17 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.

As compared to the previous week, the number of cargo minivans decreased from 184 to 176; 82 crossed to the Russian Federation and 94 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 20 occasions; the OTs assessed that ten trains were travelling to the Russian Federation, with the other ten bound for Ukraine. 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, as well as due to unfavourable light conditions.

Other observations

The majority of vehicles crossing the border had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region or Russian Federation licence plates. In addition, the OTs also observed vehicles with Belarusian, Georgian and Lithuanian licence plates and also a significant number with “LPR” plates crossing the border in both directions.

On several occasions the OTs in Donetsk BCP noticed police cars approaching the BCP from the Russian Federation or entering the BCP area for a few minutes and returning without crossing towards Ukraine.

At 00:11hrs on 13 October the OT in Donetsk BCP noticed two masked men dressed in camouflage with a black insignia on the uniform together with a civilian dressed in black walking to the BCP gate. The civilian immediately entered into the Russian Federation. The uniformed men crossed to the Russian Federation after some discussions with the Border Guard officer on duty at the gate. The two masked men returned to the BCP area at 00:43hrs. Men in similar uniforms were already observed previously accompanying the Ukrainian border officials during the last three Russian convoy crossings.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 12 September 2017 to 17 October 2017 see the attachment here.

[1] Based on data received from Rostov-on-Don 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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