Ukraine – Update: OSCE Observer Mission At Russian Checkpoints Gukovo And Donetsk

Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 5 September 2017

OSCE SMM monitoring the movement of heavy weaponry in eastern Ukraine (16730574682)

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 20 permanent international staff members, including the Acting 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 decreased from 13,847 to 12,238 per day for both BCPs compared to last week. The average net flow for both BCPs went from minus 138 (i.e. more exits from the Russian Federation) to plus 102 (i.e. more entries into 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 36.1 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 124 this week at both BCPs compared to 99 last week; 60 of them crossed into the Russian Federation, 64 into Ukraine. Approximately 79 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

During the reporting period, the OTs observed one family crossing the border into the Russian Federation with a significant amount of luggage.

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”.

During the reporting period the OTs observed 437 buses crossing the border at both BCPs, 234 of them were bound for the Russian Federation and 203 for Ukraine. Some buses were connecting Ukrainian towns through the Russian Federation (circumventing the contact line).

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

Trucks

During the reporting period the OM observed a decrease in the number of trucks crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. Compared to the previous week, the total number of trucks decreased from 722 to 616 (211 in Gukovo BCP and 405 in Donetsk BCP); 349 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 267 crossed into Ukraine. Most of the trucks observed by the OTs had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region.

Separately, the OTs also observed tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. The number of tanker trucks decreased from 49 to 46. 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 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 109 X-ray checks. At the Donetsk BCP, out of the total number of trucks scanned during the reporting period, 86 trucks (79 per cent) were bound for Ukraine; the remaining 23 trucks (21 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 the Luhansk region; however, the OTs also frequently saw minivans registered in the Russian Federation.

As compared to the previous week, the number of cargo minivans increased from 204 to 217; 113 crossed to the Russian Federation and 104 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 34 occasions; the OTs assessed that 17 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation, with the other 17 were bound for Ukraine. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine was regularly informed about the trains bound for 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 had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region or Russian Federation licence plates. In addition, the OTs also observed vehicles, cars and trucks with “LPR” or “DPR” plates crossing the border in both directions.

On 4 September at 23:50 a convoy of seven vehicles (one medium truck, one minivan, one SUV and four cars) arrived at the Gukovo BCP from the Russian Federation side. All the vehicles had signs in Russian reading: “National Liberation Movement”, St. George Ribbon flags and slogans: “Our Country – Our Rules” and “Great Russia”. At least five passengers wore military type uniforms “Gorka” with some markings, but the OT was unable to notice details due to the distance from the check point. Upon their arrival more border guards and customs officers than usual appeared from the main building and it looked like the appearance of these vehicles caused a stir among the Russian officials. At 00:05 all vehicles returned to the Russian Federation.

On 30 August and 1 September, organized bus convoys (35 buses in total) were observed at Donetsk BCP transporting children to Ukraine from Russian summer camps. Another bus convoy (19 buses) was observed on 4 September transporting children from Ukraine to the Russian Federation. In all cases the border crossing was supported with food and medical assistance by Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations teams in specially installed tents inside the technical area of the BCP.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 1 August 2017 to 5 September 2017 see the attachment here


[1] Based on data received from Rostov-on-Don 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).

[Source: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) -/- Media Relations]
[Photo Credits: inserted by Openeyesopinion.com (credits embedded)]

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