Ukraine

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 28 February 2017

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This report is for the general public and the media.

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. The fifty-eighth and fifty-ninth Russian convoys, both consisting of ten vehicles crossed into Ukraine and returned through the Donetsk Border Crossing Point on 21 and 28 February respectively.

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 9,526 to 10,212 per day for both BCPs compared to last week. The average net flow for both BCPs increased from plus 114 to plus 145 (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 40.3 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 79 this week at both BCPs compared to 107 last week; 40 of them crossed into the Russian Federation, 39 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 two families were observed crossing the border into the Russian Federation, while four families were observed crossing to Ukraine.

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: Rovenki-Kyiv; Stakhanov–Luhansk–Kyiv; Luhansk-Kyiv; Stakhanov–Luhansk; and Sevastopol.

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 decreased from 679 to 456 (129 in Gukovo BCP and 327 in Donetsk BCP); 286 of these trucks crossed to the Russian Federation and 170 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 decreased from 46 to 34. 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 101 X-ray checks. At the latter BCP, out of the total number of trucks scanned during the reporting period, 60 trucks (59 per cent) were bound for Ukraine; the remaining 41 trucks (41 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 decreased from 274 to 257; 128 crossed to the Russian Federation and 129 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 seven occasions; the OTs assessed that three trains were travelling to Ukraine and other four were bound for the Russian Federation.

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 Lithuanian licence 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.

During the reporting week, the OTs observed two ambulances crossing the border between the Russian Federation and Ukraine and two funeral vans. The first ambulance appeared at Donetsk BCP on 27 February crossing into Ukraine at 05:04 hrs and returning to the Russian Federation at 07:36 hrs that same morning. The ambulance had Russian Federation licence plates; the OT was unable to confirm if there were patients inside. The second ambulance was observed on 27 February at the Gukovo BCP, crossing into Ukraine at 19:07 hrs. The OT could not determine the type of licence plate due to limited visibility, or if any patients were inside.

The first funeral van was observed crossing from the Russian Federation into Ukraine on 22 February at the Donetsk BCP. It crossed into Ukraine at 16:00 hrs. The second funeral van was observed on 27 February at Gukovo BCP. It had Ukrainian licence plates and crossed into Ukraine at 16:35 hrs; the van had an inscription “Requiem” written in Russian on its side.

The fifty-eighth Russian convoy arrived at the Donetsk BCP on 21 February at 07:20 hrs. A total of ten vehicles were checked by the Russian border guards and customs services prior to them crossing into Ukraine. All of the ten vehicles had crossed back into the Russian Federation by 15:38 hrs the same day (See OM Spot Report, 21 February 2017). On 28 February 2017 at 06:55 hrs (Moscow time), the fifty ninth Russian convoy arrived at the Donetsk BCP. A total of ten vehicles were checked by the Russian border guards and customs services prior to them crossing into Ukraine. All of the ten vehicles had crossed back into the Russian Federation by 12:32 hrs on 28 February. (See OM Spot Report, 28 February 2017).

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 24 January 2017 to 28 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/302256

Contacts:

Communication and Media Relations Section