Ukraine

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 30 July 2019

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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 decreased at both BCPs compared to the previous week. On 25 July, the eighty-third Russian convoy of nine vehicles crossed into Ukraine and returned through the Donetsk BCP.

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 staff member and the Chief of Fund Administration based in Vienna.

OBSERVATIONS AT THE BORDER CROSSING POINTS

Persons crossing the border

The profile of persons 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 persons and/or children) travelling on foot or by car with a significant amount of luggage.

The average number of entries/exits decreased from 13,101 to 12,844 per day at both BCPs compared to last week[1].

During the reporting period, the majority of border crossings were to the Russian Federation, with an average net flow of 26 per day for both BCPs.

The Donetsk BCP continued to experience much 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 was seven this week compared to 24 last week: two of them crossed into the Russian Federation, and five into Ukraine (57 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 had tinted windows, and buses and minivans had drawn curtains.

Families with a significant amount of luggage

The OTs continued to report on families, sometimes with elderly persons and/or children, crossing the border at both BCPs with a significant amount of luggage, or travelling in heavily loaded cars. During this reporting week, five families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and six were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when 13 families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and 12 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 did not state their route; instead they had 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 (485 compared to 426 observed during the previous week). There were 240 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 245 bound for Ukraine.

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

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

Trucks

During the reporting period, the OTs observed 945 trucks (compared to 1,084 during the previous reporting week) crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs (554 at the Gukovo BCP and 391 at the Donetsk BCP); 588 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 357 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 Belarus and the Russian Federation and with “LPR” plates. During the reporting week, the Gukovo BCP continued to experience more cargo traffic than Donetsk (in particular due to a significant number of cargo trucks crossing from Ukraine into the Russian Federation).

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 65 (compared to 50 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 underwent systematic inspection by Russian Federation officials, which could 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 61 to 88: of the total number of trucks scanned, 70 trucks (80 per cent) were bound for Ukraine; the remaining 18 trucks (20 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 slightly increased from 168 to 172 vehicles; 90 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 82 into Ukraine.

Trains

The OTs continued to pick up the sound of trains running on the railway tracks located approximately 150m south-west of the Gukovo BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on 31 occasions; the OTs assessed that 19 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and 12 to Ukraine (more details are provided in the sections “trends and figures at a glance” below).

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. Cars with licence plates from Armenia, Georgia, Lithuania and Poland, as well as “DPR” and “Republic of Abkhazia” plates were also noted during the reporting week.

On 24 July at 01:05, a funeral services van with Russian Federation licence plates arrived at the Gukovo BCP from the Ukrainian side, underwent the border control procedures and crossed into the Russian Federation. The van bore the inscription “Ритуальный кортеж Плутон”.

On 26 July at 12:50, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a police vehicle with three people inside, entering the BCP from the Russian Federation. The vehicle parked near the main building. At 13:05, the police vehicle with all three people inside returned to the Russian Federation.

On 29 July at 12:50, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a military Mi-8 helicopter which flew over the Donetsk BCP inside the airspace of the Russian Federation. The aircraft came from the north and continued flying in a southerly direction.

Convoy

On 25 July at 06:39 (Moscow time), the eighty-third[3] Russian convoy arrived at the Donetsk Border Crossing Point (BCP). A total of nine vehicles were checked by Russian Federation border guards and customs officers prior to their crossing into Ukraine. All nine vehicles had crossed back into the Russian Federation by 13:46 on 25 July.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 25 June 2019 to 30 July 2019, please see the attachment here.

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

[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).

[3] Based on the Observer Mission’s counting, this convoy is considered the eighty-third convoy that has crossed into Ukraine through the “Donetsk” or “Gukovo” BCPs. However, so far all these convoys crossed through the “Donetsk” BCP.

Contacts

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Phone: + 43 676 71 74 592

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