Ukraine

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 14 February 2017

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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 increased at both BCPs.

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 19 permanent international staff members, including the Chief Observer (CO). The Mission is supported administratively by a Vienna-based staff member.

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

The average number of entries/exits increased from 8,326 to 9,125 per day for both BCPs compared to last week. The average net flow for both BCPs went from plus 213 to plus 149 (i.e. more entries to the Russian Federation).

The Donetsk BCP continues to experience more traffic than the Gukovo BCP. The cross-border movements registered at both BCPs accounted for 41.1 per cent of all entries/exits in Rostov region[1].

Persons in military-style outfits

During the reporting period, the number of persons in military-style outfits crossing the border in both directions was 129 this week at both BCPs compared to 97 last week; 55 of them crossed into the Russian Federation, 74 into Ukraine. Approximately 81 per cent of this category’s crossings occurred at the Donetsk BCP. They continued to cross the border individually or in groups. Most individuals crossed by foot, however, some made use of private vehicles, buses or minivans, making it more difficult for the observer teams (OTs) to observe their movement across the border, especially since many of the private vehicles have tinted windows, and buses and minivans have drawn curtains.

Families with a significant amount of luggage

The OTs continue to report on families crossing the border, sometimes with elderly people and/or children, crossing at both BCPs with a significant amount of luggage, or travelling in heavily loaded cars. During this reporting period three families were observed crossing the border into the Russian Federation.

Bus connections

Regular local and long-distance bus connections continue to operate between Ukraine (mostly from/to the Luhansk region) and the Russian Federation. In addition to regular bus connections, the OTs continued to observe bus connections on irregular routes. Often the buses do not state their route; instead they have a sign on the windshield stating “Irregular”.

Among the bus connections observed by the OTs, the following “irregular” routes or destinations were noted: Stakhanov-Luhansk-Kyiv; Rovenki-Kyiv; Luhansk-Kyiv; Luhansk-Sevastopol; and Pervomaisk-Kyiv.

On some occasions, the OTs noticed the bus drivers removing the itinerary signs from the windshields of their buses, or some buses don’t display their route at all. The majority of long-distance coaches commuting between Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation have Ukrainian licence plates issued in Luhansk region.

Trucks

The OM continued to observe trucks crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. Compared to the previous week, the total number of trucks increased from 624 to 661 (148 in Gukovo BCP and 513 in Donetsk BCP); 354 of these trucks crossed to the Russian Federation and 307 crossed to Ukraine. Most of the trucks observed by the OTs have Ukrainian licence plates issued in Luhansk region.

Separately, the OTs also observed tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. The number of tanker trucks slightly increased from 41 to 43. These trucks were observed crossing the border at both BCPs. The trucks mainly had the words “Propane” and “Flammable” written across the tanks in either Russian or Ukrainian. The majority of tanker trucks have hazard signs, indicating that they are transporting propane or a mix of propane with butane.

All trucks undergo systematic inspection by Russian Federation officials, which may include an X-ray check. Due to the unfavourable position at the Gukovo BCP, the OTs continued to be unable to observe any X-ray checks. At the Donetsk BCP the OTs observed 152 X-ray checks. At the latter BCP, out of the total number of trucks scanned during the reporting period, 122 trucks (80 per cent) were bound for Ukraine; the remaining 30 trucks (20 per cent) crossed into the Russian Federation.

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 Luhansk region; however, the OTs frequently saw minivans registered in the Russian Federation.

Compared to the previous week, the number of cargo minivans increased from 202 to 243; 122 crossed to the Russian Federation and 121 to Ukraine.

Trains

The OTs continued to pick up the sound of trains running on the train tracks located approximately 150 metres south-west of the Gukovo BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on just two occasions; the OTs assessed that the trains were travelling to Ukraine.

Visual observation was not possible because of the line of trees located between the train tracks and the BCP, as well as due to unfavourable light conditions.

Other observations

The majority of vehicles crossing the border have Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region or Russian Federation licence plates. The OTs continued to observe vehicles, cars and buses with “LPR” licence plates crossing the border in both directions. On some occasions the OTs observed vehicles with Georgian and “South-Ossetian” plates. The OTs also continued to observe articulated trucks with “LPR” or “Novorossiya” stickers, or in rare cases “DPR” stickers on their licence plates masking the Ukrainian flag.

On 7 February at 18:57hrs the OT in Gukovo BCP observed an ambulance with Russian licence plates arriving from the Russian Federation. The OT saw the ambulance returning to Russia at 19:11hrs with its alarm lights on.

On 8 February at 16:07hrs the OT in Gukovo BCP observed a GAZelle type van with Russian registration plates entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and at 16:21hrs crossing the border to Ukraine. The van had the inscription “Ritual Service” written in Russian on its sides. While undergoing border formalities the OT observed three men and one woman in the vehicle. The same van was observed returning to the Russian Federation at 18:02hrs.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 10 January 2017 to 14 February 2017 see the attachment here.

[1] Based on data received from Rostov region Border Guard Service

[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).

For PDF attachments or links to sources of further information, please visit: http://www.osce.org/om/299766

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