Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 19 December 2017
This report is for the media and the general public.
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.
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 10,236 to 11,147 per day for both BCPs compared to last week. The average net flow for both BCPs went from minus 9 to minus 243 (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 38.5 per cent of all entries/exits in Rostov region.
Persons in military-style outfits
During the reporting period, the number of persons in military-style outfits crossing the border in both directions was 76 this week at both BCPs compared to 82 last week; 41 of them crossed into the Russian Federation, 35 into Ukraine. Approximately 86 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 five into Ukraine.
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 400 buses crossing the border at both BCPs, 211 of them were bound for the Russian Federation and 189 for Ukraine. Twenty one of the 400 buses were connecting Ukrainian towns through the Russian Federation (circumventing the contact line), fourteen of which went to the Russian Federation and seven 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.
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 681 to 699 (184 in Gukovo BCP and 515 in Donetsk BCP); 405 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 294 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 decreased from 56 to 50. 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 only one X-ray check, due to the fact that the X-ray unit was not operational during the week.
The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans 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 increased from 169 to 171; 87 crossed to the Russian Federation and 84 to Ukraine.
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 33 occasions; the OTs assessed that fifteen trains were travelling to the Russian Federation, with the other eighteen 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.
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 a significant number of LPR plates crossing the border in both directions.
On 14 December at 08:00 the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a group of three medium refrigerated trucks (size less than 7.5 tons) without any markings escorted by a police car in front and a Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations (MES) SUV vehicle to the rear of the trucks. Upon arrival at the BCP they were immediately sent to the furthest right exit lane by a border guard. The police car immediately left the BCP while the MES vehicle parked in front of the BCP building. Five people in black special forces-style uniforms carrying AK-47 rifles exited the three trucks and got in the MES vehicle. All of them stayed there for almost an hour and at 08:50 the MES vehicle departed the BCP to the Russian Federation with all the uniformed men, while the trucks crossed the border to Ukraine. The OT could not observe if the trucks were inspected since the view was blocked by other trucks waiting inspection at the BCP.
On 16 December at 13:10 the OT at the Gukovo BCP observed an ambulance arriving at the BCP from the Russian Federation side and crossing the border to Ukraine. The OT could not observe any patients on board.
For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 14 November 2017 to 12 December 2017, please see the attachment here.
 Based on data received from Rostov-on-Don region Border Guard Service
 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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