Ukraine

Weekly update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 10:00 (Moscow time), 15 April 2015

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This report is for 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 cross-border traffic increased at both BCPs.

DETAIL

OM’s staff composition

The OM is currently operating with 19 staff members, consisting of 18 permanent international observers (incl. the Chief Observer) and one first-responder who is performing duties of an administrative assistant. Five staff members are currently on leave.

Cross-border movements common to both BCPs

The profile of the people crossing the border remains unchanged and can be categorised as follows:

  • Families on foot or travelling by car, with a lot of luggage, often accompanied by elderly people;
  • Adults (usually of younger age) with no luggage or empty cars;
  • People wearing military-style clothes with or without backpacks, crossing on foot or in vehicles.

As compared to last week, the average number of entries/exits increased overall from 7,049 to 8,052 per day for both BCPs and the average net flow almost doubled going from minus 310 to minus 602 (i.e. more exits from the Russian Federation). This continues to exhibit the trend observed by the OM for the past eight weeks of more people returning to Ukraine through the two BCPs. Furthermore, over the past three weeks the number of people returning to Ukraine through the two BCPs has been increasing. The Donetsk BCP continued to experience more traffic than the Gukovo BCP. The cross-border movements registered at both BCPs accounted for 33.5 percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The majority of the vehicles crossing the border have number plates issued in the Luhansk region, including an increasing number of articulated trucks and the long-distance coaches commuting between Luhansk and cities in the Russian Federation, predominantly in the Rostov region.

Common observations at the BCPs

The situation at both BCPs remained calm. The OM continued to observe that the Russian Federation border guard and customs service conducted checks and controls.

Regular local and long-distance bus connections continued to operate between the Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation. In addition to regular bus connections, the Observer Teams (OTs) also continued to observe bus connections on irregular routes. Often the buses do not state their direct route; instead they just have a sign in the window saying “Irregular”.

During the reporting period, the number of men and women in military-style dress crossing the border in both directions decreased from 484 to 456 at both BCPs. These people have been crossing individually or in groups and on foot or in vehicles. Just over ninety percent of border crossings occurred at the Donetsk BCP. The OTs continued to observe a number of Cossacks, who were identified by their traditional hats, as well as by Cossack insignias.

Furthermore, the OTs continued to observe Ukrainian cars with “DPR/LPR” stickers on their license plates replacing the Ukrainian flag.

During the reporting week the OM continued to observe an increased number of trucks crossing the border in both directions. The OTs continued to observe dumper trucks transporting coal from the Luhansk region to the Russian Federation through the BCP Gukovo. The OTs observed intense trailer truck traffic at BCP Donetsk crossing the border in both directions. The OTs also observed tanker trucks crossing the border both ways. These crossings occurred at both BCPs. These trucks for the most part had the word “Propane” and “Flammable” written across the tanks in Russian.

Military movement

At the two BCPs the OM did not observe military movement, apart from the usual vehicles of the Russian Federation Border Guard Service.

Observation at the Gukovo BCP

The traffic flow at the Gukovo BCP increased compared to last week. A daily average of 2,271 entries and exits was recorded, which accounted for over nine percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow went from plus 4 (i.e. more entries to the Russian Federation) to minus 79 on average per day.

During the week, the OM observed a total of 44 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Gukovo BCP, 24 of whom left for Ukraine while 20 entered the Russian Federation.

As in previous weeks, the OM observed dumper trucks transporting coal from the Luhansk region to the Russian Federation. As reported previously, the observers saw Russian Federation customs officers verifying that the trucks were empty while leaving the Russian Federation.

The OTs picked up on the sound of trains running down the train tracks located approximately 150 meters south west of the BCP on five occasions during the reporting week; the OTs estimated that four trains were going to Ukraine; one was bound for the Russian Federation. Visual observation was not possible.

On April 11 at 18:45 the BCP was closed and all personnel, including the OT, was evacuated from the BC. At 19:00 a Border Guard Explosive Ordnance Disposal team (EOD) performed a controlled detonation near the BCP probably due to the discovery of an Unexploded Ordnance (UXO).

On April 12 at 20:58 the OT heard a sound of muffled detonations coming from the Ukrainian side of the border (twelve in total). The OT estimated that the sound was coming from a considerable distance.

On April 12 at 21:57 the OT observed a bright light of an aircraft in the sky on the Ukrainian side of the border moving in the direction west-north-west away from the border. The light was observed for about 11 minutes until it disappeared.

Observation at the Donetsk BCP

During the reporting period the activity at the Donetsk BCP increased compared to last week. The daily average of 5,781 entries and exits accounted for just over twenty four percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow changed from minus 313 (i.e. more exiting from Russian Federation) to minus 523 on average per day. Although the net flow numbers fluctuate from week to week, observations at the BCP Donetsk show that still more people exit the Russian Federation for Ukraine. The OT observed 412 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Donetsk BCP individually and in groups; 223 persons entered the Russian Federation while 189 left for Ukraine.

During the reporting week the OTs observed four ambulances at the Donetsk BCP. No wounded persons were observed in any of these four ambulances.

On April 09 at 09:35 the OT observed a helicopter fly over the BCP from the direction southeast in the direction northwest.

On April 10 at 16:48 hrs the OT observed a film crew of “Rossija” TV channel escorted by one customs officer arrive to the BCP. At 16:55 an ambulance registered in the Republic of Chechnya and two buses registered in the Republic of Dagestan with big Chechen flags on the sides arrived to BCP and parked in the custom zone. On the buses there were big green banners of “Regional social fond named after Ahmet Khadyrov”. At 17:15 one bus registered in Luhansk oblast arrived; it had “Children” and “Lugansk” banners on its sides. From the bus around 25 children in wheelchairs and their escort (mothers) were transferred to the Chechen buses. Journalists took some interviews and shot the entire event. At 18:05 the ambulance and the buses left the BCP driving towards the RF.

On April12 in the evening hours from the direction west, the OT heard two short bursts of an assault rifle. Then a single white hand-held signal rocket appeared in the sky in the south west direction. Almost immediately after that the OT counted 33 consecutive rounds of what sounded like fireworks. The OT contacted the BCP personnel who informed the OT that the sound came from the Ukrainian territory. The BCP continued to work normally and without any interruptions during the happening.

Rotation of the Ukrainian contingent stationed at the Donetsk BCP

On 10 April, the OT observed a column of vehicles entering the area where representatives of the Ukrainian border guard and customs services have been stationed since 15 August 2014. The column was escorted by local police and consisted of three minivans and one KAMAZ truck. All vehicles were registered in the Russian Federation. After a line-up of both new and old shifts, they unloaded the truck. Within 2 hours of their arrival, all the vehicles had left the camp. The column did not cross the border at BCP Donetsk.