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 OM is currently operating with 22 permanent international Mission members, including the Chief Observer (CO) and a First Responder. The Mission is supported administratively by a staff member and the Chief of Fund Administration based in Vienna. The OM started with a two - months mandate period on 1 June.
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:
- Adults travelling on foot or by car with little or no luggage.
- Persons in military-style outfits.
- 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 increased from 8,622 to 9,150 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 158 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 seven, compared to two last week; two persons crossed into the Russian Federation while five 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, no families were observed crossing neither into the Russian Federation nor into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when no families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation while 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 an increase in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (396 compared to 333 observed during the previous week). There were 206 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 190 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.
During the reporting period, the OTs observed a slight increase in the overall number of trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (822 compared to 801 during the previous reporting week); 466 at the Gukovo BCP and 356 at the Donetsk BCP, 441 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation, and 381 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, Georgia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, and trucks with “LPR” and “DPR” plates.
The OTs also continued to observe tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. During the reporting period, the OTs observed just a slight increase in the overall number of tanker trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (50 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 increased from 138 to 150. Of the total number of trucks scanned, 150 trucks (100 per cent) were bound for Ukraine.
The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans 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 a decrease in the overall number of minivans crossing the border at both BCPs (127 compared to 153 observed during the previous week); 74 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 53 into Ukraine.
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 35 occasions; the OTs assessed that 14 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and the remaining 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.
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 Polish licence plates.
On 25 May at 15:15, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a group of six brand-new vehicles type “Lada Niva Travel” without licence plates entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking at the customs control area. The OT observed only a driver inside each vehicle. After undergoing customs control procedures, the vehicles left for Ukraine at 15:44.
On 1 June at 00:08, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a white medium-sized truck and a white minivan with “LPR” plates arriving from Ukraine. The vehicles had the inscription “LPR Post” displayed on the sides (in Russian). After undergoing border and customs control procedures, the vehicles crossed into the Russian Federation at 01:03.
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 recent Weekly Updates 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 27 April 2021 to 1 June 2021, please see the attachment here.
 First responders are OSCE staff or Mission members deployed for a short period of time.
 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).