Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 8 October 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 decreased 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 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:

Adults travelling on foot or by car with little or no luggage; Persons in military-style outfits; 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 11,877 to 11,302 per day at both BCPs compared to last week.

During the reporting period, the majority of border crossings were to Ukraine, with an average net flow of 533 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 14 this week compared to 20 last week: nine of them crossed into the Russian Federation, and five into Ukraine (79 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, three families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and four were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when three families were observed crossing to the Russian Federation and six to 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 a slight increase in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (511 compared to 501 observed during the previous week). There were 272 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 239 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.

Trucks

During the reporting period, the OTs observed 937 trucks (compared to 847 during the previous reporting week) crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs (429 at the Gukovo BCP and 508 at the Donetsk BCP); 444 of these trucks crossed to the Russian Federation and 493 crossed to 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 also with “LPR” plates.

The OTs also continued to observe tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. During the reporting week, the number of tanker trucks increased slightly from 63 to 65. 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 slightly increased from 146 to 150; 111 trucks (74 per cent) were bound for Ukraine, the remaining 39 trucks (26 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 125 to 154 vehicles; 70 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 84 into Ukraine.

Trains

The OTs continued to pick up the sound of trains on the railway tracks located approximately 150m south-west of the Gukovo BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on 22 occasions; the OTs assessed that 13 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and 9 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. The OTs also observed cars with licence plates from Belarus, Georgia, Lithuania and Poland; cars with “DPR” plates were also observed.

On 1 October at 13:05, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed ten empty minibuses without licence plates crossing in a group from the Russian Federation into Ukraine. The minibuses bore the inscription “children” (in Russian) on the windscreen.

On 2 October at 15:02, an ambulance with Russian Federation licence plates entered the Donetsk BCP from the Russian Federation side and parked next to the main building. Two paramedics left the ambulance and went towards the passenger cars parked in the entrance queue. At 15:40, the ambulance and the two paramedics returned towards the Russian Federation. No patient or other persons were observed on board the ambulance.

During the same day at 16:08, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a group of five vehicles consisting of a police car with the inscription "ГИБДД" and flashing lights turned off, a white SUV and three more cars arriving from Ukraine. All five vehicles bore "LPR" plates. They underwent border control and crossed into the Russian Federation at 17:16. While leaving the BCP, the police car turned on its flashing lights.

Later the same day at the same BCP, two police minivans with Russian Federation licence plates were observed on two distinct occasions. At 17:45, one police minivan entered the Donetsk BCP from the Russian Federation with four policemen inside. At 18:02, the police car drove back towards the Russian Federation with all four policemen inside. Afterwards, at 20:17, another police minivan entered the BCP from the Russian Federation side and drove behind the main building. At 20:49, the minivan drove back into the Russian Federation.

On 7 October at 10:39, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a military helicopter type Mi-17 flying from the south of the BCP which then turned in an easterly direction. During the entire time the aircraft flew over the territory of the Russian Federation at an altitude of around 50 metres.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 3 September to 8 October 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).

See trends and figures

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