Ukraine

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 11 May 2021

Format
News and Press Release
Source
Posted
Originally published
Origin
View original

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 Mission members, including the Chief Observer (CO) and a First Responder.^^[1]^^ 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. During this reporting period, the vaccination process provided by the host country medical system continues on a voluntary basis. By now, 73 per cent of OM staff have received both jabs of the vaccine.

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 decreased from 8,551 to 8,034 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 407 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 nine, compared to seven last week; three persons crossed into the Russian Federation while six persons 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, four families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation while one family was observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when 12 families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and 14 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 just a slight decrease in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (349 compared to 350 observed during the previous week). There were 175 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 174 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 decrease in the overall number of trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (527 compared to 707 during the previous reporting week); 310 at the Gukovo BCP and 217 at the Donetsk BCP, 290 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation, and 237 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 OTs observed a slight decrease in the overall number of tanker trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (45 compared to 49 during 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 123 to 94. Of the total number of trucks scanned, all 94 trucks (100 per cent) were bound for Ukraine.

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. During the reporting period, the overall number of minivans crossing the border at both BCPs remained the same, 133 compared to the same number observed during the previous week; 71 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 62 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 32 occasions; the OTs assessed that 17 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and the remaining 15 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, Lithuanian and transit German licence plates.

On 5 May at 15:18, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed an ambulance with "LPR" plates and an inscription "Urgent Medical Help" (in Russian) on the side, crossing the border from Ukraine into the Russian Federation. The same day at 19:04, the ambulance returned from the Russian Federation. The OT could observe the driver and one medical personnel on board. After undergoing border and customs control procedures, the ambulance left for Ukraine at 19:20.

On 6 May at 08:07, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed an ambulance with "LPR" plates and an inscription "Sanitary" (in Russian) on the side. The ambulance arrived from Ukraine and left for the Russian Federation. The OT was unable to notice any other details from its position.

On 6 May at 15:55, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed two ambulances with "LPR" plates, entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and queuing at the customs control area. The first vehicle had an inscription "Urgent Medical Help" and the second one "Sanitary" (in Russian). Both vehicles underwent border and customs control procedures and left for Ukraine at 16:15.

On 7 May at 00:55, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a group of three minivans arriving at the BCP from Ukraine. All vehicles bore an inscription "LPR Post" (in Russian). After undergoing border and customs control procedures, the minivans left the BCP towards the Russian Federation.

On 7 May at 05:15, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed an individual in civilian clothes, carrying a big green backpack and entering the BCP's hangar building, located at the customs control area, accompanied by a customs officer. At 05:30, both left the hangar, heading into the BCP's main building. The OT noticed that the customs officer was carrying a bulletproof vest and two bulletproof plates. The OT was unable to notice any other details from its position.

On 7 May at 21:42, the OT at the Donetsk observed a white truck and two white minivans with "LPR" plates entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking at the customs control area. All the vehicles had the sign "LPR Post" displayed on the sides (in Russian). After undergoing border and customs control procedures, the vehicles left for Ukraine at 23:00.

The truck with "LPR" plates carrying four jet engines (the main part of the engine, similar to the Klimov VK-1 and the Rolls-Royce Nene jet engines), observed by the OT at the Gukovo BCP on 25 April and reported in the last Weekly Update is still parked at the BCP's customs control area facing in the direction of the Russian Federation.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 6 April 2021 to 11 May 2021, please see the attachment here.

[1] First responders are OSCE staff or Mission members deployed for a short period of time.

[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 that correspond to driving licence C1).

For PDF attachments or links to sources of further information, please visit: https://www.osce.org/observer-mission-at-russian-checkpoints-gukovo-and-donetsk/486086

Contacts:\

Communication and Media Relations Section

Phone: + 43 676 71 74 592\ press@osce.org