Ukraine

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 30 March 2021

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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 increased at both BCPs compared to the previous week.

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 22 permanent international Mission members, including the Chief Observer (CO). 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 Chairpersonship. Following the host country’s recommendations, the observers are adhering to 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.

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 7,967 to 7,996 per day at both BCPs compared to last week.

During the reporting period, the majority of border crossings were to the Russian Federation, with an average net flow of 64 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 closed its borders for the majority of foreigners starting from 18 March 2020. 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 2020, 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 three, compared to seven last week; two persons crossed into the Russian Federation while one person 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, three families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation while two families were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when one family was observed crossing into the Russian Federation and four families were observed crossing 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 increase in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (286 compared to 279 observed during the previous week). There were 152 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 134 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.

Trucks

During the reporting period, the OTs observed a slight increase in the overall number of trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (803 compared to 794 during the previous reporting week); 432 at the Gukovo BCP and 371 at the Donetsk BCP, 433 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation, and 370 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, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, and trucks with “LPR” plates.

The OTs also continued to observe tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. During the reporting period, the overall number of tanker trucks crossing the border at both BCPs was 32, the same as the previous reporting 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 Russian Federation officials, which could include an X-ray check. Due to the unfavorable 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 decreased from 128 to 75. Of the total number of trucks scanned, 64 trucks (85 per cent) were bound for Ukraine, and the remaining 11 trucks (15 per cent) crossed into the Russian Federation.

Minivans

The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans[1] 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. During the reporting period, the OTs observed an increase in the overall number of minivans crossing the border at both BCPs (165 compared to 125 observed during the previous week); 91 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 74 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 18 occasions; the OTs assessed that eight trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and the remaining ten 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 vehicles with Georgian and Lithuanian licence plates.

On 23 March at 21:41, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a blue minivan with the inscription "Road Service" on the side (in Russian) entering the BCP from Ukraine. After undergoing border control procedures, the vehicle left the BCP towards the Russian Federation. The OT was unable notice any other details from its position.

On 23 March at 23:31, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a minivan and medium-sized truck with “LPR” plates entering the BCP from the Russian Federation side and parking in the customs control area. Both vehicles had the inscription "LPR Post" (in Russian) displayed on the sides. After undergoing border control procedures, the vehicles left for Ukraine at 01:30.

On 25 March at 20:35, the OT at the Gukovo BCP observed two ambulances, painted in white and yellow, entering the BCP from the Russian Federation side and parking in the customs control area. Both vehicles had Russian Federation licence plates and the inscription “Urgent Medical Help” (in Russian) on the sides. After undergoing border control procedures, the ambulances left for Ukraine at 20:49.

On 26 March at 13:02, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a brand-new white minivan with Russian Federation licence plates and the inscription "Roadway Laboratory" (in Russian), accompanied by another brand-new dump truck type "Kamaz" with no licence plates and the inscription on the side "Luhansk Roads" (in Russian), entering the BCP from the Russian Federation side and parking in the customs control area. After undergoing border control procedures, the vehicles left for Ukraine at 14:41.

On 29 March, at 14:25 the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a brand-new minivan type ”Ford” without licence plates, with a driver and three passengers on board, entering the BCP from the Russian Federation side and parking in the customs control area. The vehicle had red stripes and red crosses on the sides. After undergoing an X-ray check and border control procedures, the minivan left for Ukraine at 15:03.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 23 February 2021 to 30 March 2021, please see the attachment here.

[1] 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 that correspond to driving licence C1).

See trends and figures