Ukraine

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 30 October 2018

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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 slightly decreased at both BCPs compared to the previous week.

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 21 permanent international staff members, including the Chief Observer (CO) and one first responder[1]. 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 slightly decreased from 10,312 to 10,210 per day at both BCPs compared to last week[2].

During the reporting period, the majority of border crossings were to the Russian Federation, with an average net flow of plus 31 for both BCPs.

The Donetsk BCP continued to experience more traffic than the Gukovo BCP.

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 decreased to 19 (compared to 36 last week); 15 of them crossed into the Russian Federation, and 4 into Ukraine (68 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 have tinted windows, and buses and minivans have drawn curtains.

Families with a significant amount of luggage

The OTs continued to report on families crossing the border, sometimes with elderly people and/or children, at both BCPs with a significant amount of luggage, or travelling in heavily loaded cars. During this reporting week, three families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and two were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when nine families were observed crossing the border into the Russian Federation and eight 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 do not state their route; instead they have a sign on the windshield stating “irregular”.

During the reporting period, the OTs observed an increase in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (433 compared to 387 observed during the previous week). There were 229 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 204 bound for Ukraine.

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

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 overall number of trucks crossing the border in both directions and at both BCPs. Compared to the previous week, the total number of trucks went from 853 to 751 (262 at the Gukovo BCP and 489 at the Donetsk BCP); 423 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 328 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 the Russian Federation and in Belarus.

Among them, the OTs also continued to observe tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. During the reporting week, the number of tanker trucks decreased to 42 (compared to 66 during the previous reporting period). 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 undergo systematic inspection by Russian Federation officials, which may 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 increased from 88 to 134: of the total number of trucks scanned, 87 trucks (65 per cent) were bound for Ukraine; the remaining 47 trucks (35 per cent) crossed into the Russian Federation.

Minivans

The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans[3] 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 increased from 148 to 172 vehicles; 102 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 70 into Ukraine.

Trains

The OTs continued to pick up the sound of trains running on the railway tracks located approximately 150 metres south-west of the Gukovo BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on 27 occasions, compared to 22 last week; the OTs assessed that 14 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and the rest to 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.

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, as were vehicles with Belarusian, Georgian, Lithuanian and Polish licence plates and with “DPR” plates.During the reporting period, the OTs noted three funeral vans on separate occasions at the Donetsk BCP. On 27 October a funeral van was observed crossing from Ukraine into the Russian Federation at 06:51. On October 28, two distinct funeral vehicles were noted crossing the border: the first bore Ukrainian licence plates and crossed into Ukraine at 15:55, the second crossed from Ukraine into the Russian Federation at 19:40.

On all occasions, from their position, the OTs could not observe whether the vans carried a coffin or not.

On 26 October at 06:40, the OT observed an ambulance entering the Donetsk BCP from the Russian Federation. The vehicle bore licence plates issued in the Russian Federation and the inscription “Urgent medical assistance” (in Russian). After the ambulance parked next to the main building, the OT observed two paramedics entering the facilities.At 07:15 the vehicle crossed back into the Russian Federation.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 25 September to 30 October 2018, please see the attachment here.

[1] First responders are OSCE staff or mission members deployed to another mission for a short period of time.

[2] Based on data received from the Regional Representation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

[3] 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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