Ukraine

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 1 September 2020

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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 slightly decreased at both BCPs compared to the previous week. The ninety-sixth Russian convoy crossed into Ukraine and returned through the Donetsk BCP.

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 22 permanent international Mission members, including the Chief Observer (CO). The newly selected observes could finally arrive after 28 August based on the host country’s approval. The Mission is supported administratively by a staff member and the Chief of Fund Administration based in Vienna.

Update on COVID-19 measures

Activities have been impacted by COVID-19 and measures undertaken by the OM to ensure the safety and duty of care of its Mission members and compliance with measures set by the host country authorities. The Mission is continuing to keep the situation under review, in close contact with the OSCE Secretariat and the Chairmanship. Following the host country recommendations, the observers are applying a self-isolation regime between shifts at the border checkpoints and are adhering to social distancing. Due to the preventive measures taken by the central and regional authorities, the OM is faced with certain difficulties, but is still able to continue to fulfil its mandate without any limitations in its observation and reporting activities. After the reopening of the host country’s airspace on 1 August, the OM has started with planned leaves in a careful manner.

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 decreased from 11,321 to 11,216 per day at both BCPs compared to last week[1].

During the reporting period, the majority of border crossings were to Ukraine, with an average net flow of 166 per day for both BCPs. The Donetsk BCP continued to experience much more traffic than the Gukovo BCP.

Responding to the COVID-19 situation, the host country has closed its borders for the majority of foreigners starting from 18 March. Among the exceptions of persons allowed to cross the border (which entered into force on 19 March), are Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons holding passports or identification documents proving permanent residence in certain areas of Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine. In addition, reportedly, due to the threat of the spread of COVID-19, starting from 10 April, the organized passenger transport commuting between the non-government-controlled areas of Luhansk region of Ukraine and the Russian Federation was temporarily suspended and restored from 25 June.

Persons in military-style outfits

During the reporting period, the number of persons in military style outfits crossing the border was four, compared to one last week. Three persons crossed into the Russian Federation while one crossed into Ukraine. These individuals crossed the border on foot.

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, 11 families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation while another four families were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when 11 families were observed crossing to the Russian Federation, while another seven families crossed 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. During the reporting period, the OTs observed a slight decrease in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (316 compared to 340 observed during the previous week). There were 151 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 165 bound for Ukraine.

Trucks

During the reporting period, the OTs observed a decrease in the overall number of trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (884 compared to 938 during the previous reporting week); 438 at the Gukovo BCP and 446 at the Donetsk BCP, 460 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 424 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, Belarus, Ukraine, and trucks 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 did not change, and it remained 60 similar to the previous week. 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 the 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.

During the reporting period, the X-ray vehicle at the Donetsk BCP was not operating due to the ongoing ground construction activities and no X-ray checks were observed.

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 saw minivans registered in the Russian Federation. Compared to the previous week, the number of cargo minivans did not change, and it remained 137 similar to the previous week; 58 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 79 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 42 occasions; the OTs assessed that 21 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and the remaining same number 21 trains were travelling to Ukraine (more details are provided in the sections “trends and figures at a glance” below).

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 registered in Belarus, Georgia, Lithuania and Portugal.

On 25 August at 10:32, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed an ambulance with Russian Federation licence plates entering the BCP from the Russian Federation side and driving behind the BCP’s main building. The OT noticed the driver and one medic on board. At 11:05, the same ambulance returned to the Russian Federation.

During the reporting week the OTs at both BCPs observed police vehicles on two separate occasions;

On 30 August at 15:06, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a police vehicle with Russian Federation licence plates entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and driving behind the BCP’s main building. Besides the driver, the OT observed two persons inside the vehicle – one dressed in police uniform and one in civilian clothes. At 15:32, the police vehicle returned to the Russian Federation with one man in police uniform and two civilians on board.

The same day at 14:40, the OT at the Gukovo BCP observed a police vehicle entering the BCP from the Russian Federation side and parking close to the BCP’s main building. At 15:20, the vehicle returned to the Russian Federation. The OT was not able to notice any other details from its position.

On 31 August at 16:24, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a group of 16 brand-new ambulance vehicles type “UAZ” with no licence plates entering the BCP from the Russian Federation side and parking in the customs control area. After undergoing customs control procedures, all the vehicles left for Ukraine at 20:20.

Convoy

On 27 August at 06:23, the ninety-sixth[3] Russian convoy arrived at the Donetsk Border Crossing Point (BCP). A total of six vehicles were checked by Russian Federation border guards and customs officers prior to their crossing into Ukraine. All six vehicles had crossed back into the Russian Federation by 11:19 on the same day. (See OM Spot Report of 27 August 2020: https://www.osce.org/observer-mission-at-russian-checkpoints-gukovo-and-donetsk/461833).

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 28 July to 1 September 2020, 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 ninety-six 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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