Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 19 November 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 increased at both BCPs compared to the previous week. The eighty-ninth Russian convoy crossed into Ukraine and returned through the Donetsk BCP.

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:

  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 slightly increased from 11,141 to 11,177 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 63 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 11 this week compared to 32 last week: seven of them crossed into the Russian Federation, and four into Ukraine (55 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, two families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and nine were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when five families were observed crossing to the Russian Federation and seven 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 an increase in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (483 compared to 457 observed during the previous week). There were 251 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 232 bound for Ukraine. Among the bus connections observed by the OTs, the following “irregular” routes or destinations were noted: 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 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 903 trucks (compared to 770 during the previous reporting week) crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs (346 at the Gukovo BCP and 557 at the Donetsk BCP); 465 of these trucks crossed to the Russian Federation and 438 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 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 from 46 to 80. 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 158 to 194; 126 trucks (65 per cent) were bound for Ukraine, the remaining 68 trucks (35 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 141 to 153 vehicles; 71 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 82 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 seven occasions; the OTs assessed that three trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and four 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 Georgia and Lithuania.

During the reporting week, the OTs observed ambulances on three separate occasions:

  • On 14 November at 12:50, the OT at the Gukovo BCP observed an ambulance entering the BCP area from the Russian Federation and driving behind the main building. At 13:15, the ambulance drove back to the Russian Federation.

  • On 17 November at 08:08, an ambulance with Russian Federation licence plates entered the Gukovo BCP from the Russian Federation side and parked next to the main building. The driver and paramedic took out a stretcher and entered the building. At 08:28, the medical crew then loaded the stretcher with a body on it into the ambulance and drove back towards the Russian Federation.

On 18 November 2019 at 11:13, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed an ambulance with three medical staff on board entering the BCP from the Russian Federation side. The ambulance parked in front of the main building. At 11:24, the ambulance returned to the Russian Federation with one patient on board.

Convoy

On 14 November at 06:45 (Moscow time), the eighty-ninth[3] Russian convoy arrived at the Donetsk BCP. A total of 14 vehicles were checked by Russian Federation border guards and customs officers prior to their crossing into Ukraine. All 14 vehicles had crossed back into the Russian Federation by 13:07 on 14 November. Ukrainian border guards and custom officers were present during the checking processes.

(See OM Spot Report of 14 November 2019: https://www.osce.org/observer-mission-at-russian-checkpoints-gukovo-and-....

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 15 October to 19 November 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 license C1).

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

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