Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 2 February 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. Rotation of the Ukrainian officials who are present in the vicinity of the Donetsk BCP took place.

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 21 permanent international staff members (incl. the Chief Observer). A Vienna-based administrator was hired on 1 February in order to co-ordinate the administrative work which is still scattered between Secretariat, OM and OiT.

The mission is fulfilling its renewed mandate without major difficulties.

OBSERVATIONS AT THE BORDER CROSSING POINTS

Persons crossing the border

The profile of the people crossing the border has not significantly changed and can be categorized as follows:

  1. Adults with no luggage or empty cars;
  2. Families (including elderly people and children) or groups on foot or by car with a lot of luggage;
  3. People wearing military-style clothing or footwear, with or without backpacks.

The average number of entries/exits decreased overall from 8,469 to 8,053 per day for both BCPs compared to last week; the average net flow for both BCPs went from plus 49 to 57 (i.e. more entries to 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 just over 37 % of all entries/exits in the Rostov region.

People in military-style clothing

During the reporting period, the number of men and women in military-style clothing, crossing the border in both directions, decreased from 148 to 137 at both BCPs. Approximately 86 % 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 Observer Teams (OTs) to observe their movement across the border.

Furthermore, the OTs continued to observe physically fit young and middle-aged men in civilian clothing, with short haircuts, many of whom carried camouflage-coloured backpacks.

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 destinations were noted: two busses bound for Kharkiv and four busses on the route Stakhanov-Kharkiv. On multiple occasions, the OTs noticed the bus drivers removing the itinerary signs from the windshields of their busses once they entered the BCP to cross into Ukraine or leave the BCP into the Russian Federation.

Cargo trucks

During the reporting period, the OM continued to observe trucks, crossing the border in both directions and at both BCPs. The OTs observed trucks predominantly registered in the Luhansk region, however, the OTs frequently saw trucks registered in the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions as well. In addition, the OTs also observed trucks registered in the Russian Federation and Republic of Belarus that crossed the border. During the reporting period, the number of trucks registered in the Republic of Belarus slightly increased from 51 to 52; these trucks were observed crossing the border only at the Donetsk BCP. Separately, the OTs also observed tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. The number of tanker trucks increased from 33 last week to 36 this week. Thirty five of these trucks crossed at the Donetsk BCP and only one truck crossed at the Gukovo BCP. These trucks, for the most part, had the words “Propane” and “Flammable” written across the tanks in Russian and Ukrainian. The majority of tanker trucks have hazard signs, indicating that they are transporting propane or a mix of propane with butane.

Minivans[1]

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

The daily average number of entries/exits of cargo minivans for both BCPs has decreased from 52 last week to 42 this week. In the same period, the same value for passenger minivans has also decreased, from 52 last week to 46 this week.

The average daily net flow for both BCPs went from minus 2 (i.e. slightly more exits from the Russian Federation) to plus 1 (i.e. slightly more entries to the Russian Federation) for the cargo minivans, while it also decreased from minus 3 to minus 4 for the passenger minivans.

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 9 occasions; the OTs estimated that 5 trains were going to the Russian Federation and 4 trains were bound for Ukraine. In the most cases, visual observation was not possible because of the line of trees in between the train tracks and the BCP.

Other observations

The majority of the 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” (“Lugansk People’s Republic”) or “Novorossiya” stickers, in rare cases “DPR” (“Donetsk People’s Republic“) stickers on their license plates masking the Ukrainian flag.

During the reporting period the OTs observed ambulances on three occasions crossing the border in both directions at the Donetsk BCP. Two of the three ambulances were registered in Ukraine while only one of them was registered in the Russian Federation. On all three occasions, the OTs did not observe any injured person on board of any of these ambulances except for medical crew. 

On 29 January 2016, the OT at Donetsk BCP observed a police escort, a bus, and a military truck (URAL) arriving at the Ukrainian officials’ camp from direction of the Russian Federation. The OT counted around 12 Ukrainian officials (Border Guards) getting out of the bus. Later, some Ukrainian officials got into the bus and all three vehicles left the camp in the direction of the RF. One can conclude that it was the Ukrainian officials’ rotation. 

 

[1] 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).