Ukraine

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 1 March 2016

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KAMENSK-SHAKHTINSKIY, RUSSIAN FEDERATION 2 March 2016

SUMMARY

Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy, Russian Federation. The Observer Mission (OM) continues to operate 24/7 at both Border Crossing Points (BCP). The overall cross-border traffic decreased at both BCPs.

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 21 permanent international staff members (incl. the Chief Observer).

The mission is fulfilling its mandate without major difficulties.

OBSERVATIONS AT THE BORDER CROSSING POINTS

Persons crossing the border

The profile of the people crossing the border can be categorized as follows:

1.- Adults travelling on foot or by car with no or little luggage;
2.- Families (often including elderly people and/or children) on foot or by car with a significant amount of luggage;
3.- Persons in military-style outfits.

The average number of entries/exits decreased overall from 9,953 to 9,579 per day for both BCPs compared to last week; the average net flow for both BCPs went from minus 231 (i.e. more exits from the Russian Federation) to plus 170 (i.e. more entries into the Russian Federation). The Donetsk BCP continued to experience more traffic than the Gukovo BCP. The cross-border movements registered at both BCPs accounted for almost 38% of all entries/exits in Rostov region.[1]

Families

During the reporting period, the Observer Teams (OTs) saw families, often with elderly people and/or children, crossing at the BCPs with a significant amount of luggage; nine families crossed into Ukraine and seven families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation.

Persons in military-style outfits

During the reporting period, the number of men and women in military-style outfits, crossing the border in both directions, increased from 161 last week to 167 this week at both BCPs; 85 of them crossed to the Russian Federation while 82 of them crossed to Ukraine. Approximately 91% of this category’s crossings occurred at the Donetsk BCP. These people continued crossing the border individually or in groups and by foot or, in addition to private vehicles, from time to time travelling on busses or in minivans, making it more difficult for the OTs to observe their movement across the border.

Bus connections

Regular local and long-distance bus connections continued to operate between Ukraine (Luhansk region) and cities in the Russian Federation. In addition to regular bus connections, the OTs continued to observe bus connections on irregular routes: often the busses do not state their route; instead they just have a sign on the windshield saying “Irregular”.

Among these bus connections observed by the OTs, the following irregular routes were noted: Luhansk-Kharkiv, Alchevsk-Kharkiv-Kyiv, Luhansk-St. Petersburg, Luhansk-Alchevsk-Stakhanov, Luhansk-Kyiv, Rovenky-Kyiv and Alchevsk-Kyiv and Odessa.

On some occasions, the OTs noticed the bus drivers removing the itinerary signs from the windshields of their busses.

Trucks

During the reporting period, the OM continued to observe trucks crossing the border in both directions and at both BCPs. Compared to the previous week, the number of trucks increased from 463 to 648; 342 of these trucks crossed to the Russian Federation and 306 crossed to Ukraine.

Most of the trucks observed by the OTs were registered in Luhansk region; however, on occasion the OTs also saw trucks registered in other regions of Ukraine. In addition, the OTs at the Donetsk BCP also observed trucks registered in the Russian Federation and Republic of Belarus that crossed the border in both directions. During the reporting period, the number of trucks registered in the Republic of Belarus decreased from 24 to 17. The number of trucks registered in the Russian Federation was 22 during the reporting week.

Separately, the OTs also observed tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. The number of tanker trucks increased from 29 last week to 44 this week. Thirty-eight of these trucks crossed at the Donetsk BCP and six at the Gukovo BCP. These trucks, for the most part, had the words “Propane” and “Flammable” written across the tanks in Russian or Ukrainian. The majority of tanker trucks have hazard signs, indicating that they are transporting propane or a mix of propane with butane.

Minivans[2]

During the reporting period, the OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans, crossing the border in both directions and at both BCPs. The OTs observed minivans predominantly registered in Luhansk region; however, the OTs frequently saw minivans registered in the Russian Federation.

Compared to the previous week, the number of cargo minivans decreased from 365 to 346; 185 crossed to the Russian Federation and 161 to Ukraine. The number of passenger minivans increased from 267 to 281; 139 crossed to the Russian Federation and 142 crossed to Ukraine.

Trains

The OTs continued to pick up on the sound of trains running on the train tracks located approximately 150 meters south-west of the Gukovo BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on eleven occasions; the OTs estimated that six trains were going to the Russian Federation and five trains were bound for Ukraine. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine was informed of these train crossings. Visual observation was not possible because of the line of trees in between the train tracks and the BCP and unfavourable light conditions.

Other observations

The majority of vehicles crossing the border have number plates issued in Luhansk region or in the Russian Federation. The majority of long-distance coaches commuting between Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation have number plates issued in Luhansk region.

The OTs continued to observe vehicles with Ukrainian license plates, including articulated trucks with “LPR” (“Luhansk People’s Republic”) or “Novorossiya” stickers, or in rare cases “DPR” (“Donetsk People’s Republic”) stickers on their license plates masking the Ukrainian flag.

One ambulance registered in the Russian Federation was observed at the Donetsk BCP on 25 February at 18:00hrs; it arrived from the Russian Federation side and parked at the BCP out of the OTs sight. Half an hour later it was seen leaving the BCP back to the Russian Federation. The OT could not observe who was on board of this ambulance.

On 24 February at 15:30hrs the OT observed a van registered in Ukraine cross from Ukraine into the Russian Federation at the Donetsk BCP. The van bore the inscription “Funeral services”, written in Russian on its side. The OT could not ascertain whether it was carrying a coffin.

On 25 February at 22:08hrs the OT observed a van registered in Ukraine cross from the Russian Federation into Ukraine at the Donetsk BCP. The van bore the inscription “Funeral services”, written in Russian on its side. The OT could not ascertain whether it was carrying a coffin.

On 01 March at 09:18hrs the OT observed a van registered in Ukraine cross from Ukraine into the Russian Federation at the Gukovo BCP. The van bore the inscription “Funeral services”, written in Russian on its side. The OT could not ascertain whether it was carrying a coffin.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the reporting periods from 26 January 2016 to 29 February 2016 see the attachement here.

[1] Data received from Rostov region Border Guard Service

[2] Passenger minivans: vehicles with more than 8 + 1 seats and a maximum of 16 + 1 seats (light busses which correspond to driving license D1). 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 license C1).

For PDF attachments or links to sources of further information, please visit: http://www.osce.org/om/225501

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