Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 15 January 2019

Report
from Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe
Published on 15 Jan 2019

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 was 9,000 at both BCPs. It was not possible to compare the data regarding persons crossing the border to the previous reporting period, as no information regarding this category was provided to the OM.

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 21 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 was 9,000 per day at 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 noted crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs was 16 this week (compared to 13 last week); 11 of them crossed into the Russian Federation, and five into Ukraine (63 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, six families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and eight were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when three families were observed crossing into Russian Federation and four 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 (412 compared to 319 observed during the previous week). There were 199 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 213 bound for Ukraine.

Among the bus connections observed by the OTs, no “irregular” route or destination was noted. The OM could observe bus destinations: Kyiv, Pervomaisk – Kyiv; Rovenky – Kyiv; 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 an increase 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 130 to 441 (138 at the Gukovo BCP and 303 at the Donetsk BCP); 233 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 208 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, Lithuania 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 increased to 44 (compared to 28 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 28 to 47: of the total number of trucks scanned, 19 trucks (40 per cent) were bound for Ukraine; the remaining 28 trucks (60 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. Compared to the previous week, the number of cargo minivans increased from 72 to 91 vehicles; 49 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 42 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 six occasions, compared to three last week; the OTs assessed that three trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and the other three 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

On 9 January, at 08:02 the OM at Donetsk BCP observed an ambulance with inscription “Urgent Medical Help” (written in Russian) crossing from Ukraine to the Russian Federation. While crossing the border, the ambulance used its red-blue flashing lights.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 11 December 2018 to 15 January 2019, please see the attachment here.