Ukraine

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 12 December 2017

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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 22 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 increased from 9,855 to 10,236 per day for both BCPs compared to last week. The average net flow for both BCPs went from minus 132 to minus 9 (i.e. more exits from 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 42.3 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 82 this week at both BCPs compared to 87 last week; 42 of them crossed into the Russian Federation, 40 into Ukraine. Approximately 85 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, at the BCPs two families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and one 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. Sixteen of the 480 buses were connecting Ukrainian towns through the Russian Federation (circumventing the contact line), ten of which went to the Russian Federation and six to Ukraine.

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 an increase in the number of trucks crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. Compared to the previous week, the total number of trucks increased from 664 to 681 (215 in Gukovo BCP and 466 in Donetsk BCP); 395 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 286 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 increased from 45 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 88 X-ray checks: out of the total number of trucks scanned during the reporting period, 73 trucks (83 per cent) were bound for Ukraine; the remaining 15 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 slightly decreased from 172 to 169; 72 crossed to the Russian Federation and 97 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 21 occasions; the OTs assessed that nine trains were travelling to the Russian Federation, with the other twelve 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, Armenian and Georgian licence plates and a significant number of ?LPR? plates crossing the border in both directions.

During the reporting period the OTs observed helicopters on two occasions ? on 5 December near Donetsk BCP and on 8 December near Gukovo BCP. In both cases they were flying along the border inside the territory of the Russian Federation.

On 12 December at 04:50 the OT in Donetsk BCP observed an ambulance with Russian license plates crossing to Ukraine. The OT could see only two persons in medical uniform inside the vehicle.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 14 November 2017 to 12 December 2017, please 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).

Contacts: Communication and Media Relations Section Phone: + 43 676 71 74 592 press@osce.org