Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy, Russian Federation. The Observer Mission (OM) continues to operate 24/7 at both BCPs. The overall cross-border traffic increased at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs).
OM’s staff composition
The OM is currently operating with 19 staff members, consisting of 18 permanent international observers (incl. the Chief Observer) and one first-responder, who is performing the duties of an administrative assistant. Six staff members are currently on leave.
Cross-border movements common to both BCPs
The profile of the people crossing the border remains unchanged and can be categorised as follows:
- Families on foot or travelling by car and busses, with a lot of luggage, often accompanied by elderly people;
- Adults (usually of younger age) with no luggage or empty cars;
- People wearing military-style clothes with or without backpacks, crossing on foot or in vehicles.
As compared to last week, the average number of entries/exits increased overall from 10,847 to 10,986 per day for both BCPs; the average net flow went from plus 79 to minus 167 (i.e. more exits from 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 under thirty-four per cent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The majority of the vehicles crossing the border have number plates issued in the Luhansk region, including a number of articulated trucks and long-distance coaches commuting between the Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation.
Common observations at the BCPs
The situation at both BCPs remained calm. The OM continued to observe that the Russian Federation Border Guard and Customs Service conducted checks and controls.
Regular local and long-distance bus connections continued to operate between the Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation. In addition to regular bus connections, the Observer Teams (OTs) continued to observe bus connections on irregular routes. Often the buses do not state their route; instead they just have a sign on the windshield saying “Irregular”. Among the irregular lines observed by the OTs the following destinations were noted: six busses bound for Kharkiv, three busses on the route Sloviansk-Moscow, three busses on the route Luhansk-Anapa, one Luhansk-Yalta, one Luhansk-Sievierodonetsk and one Luhansk-Kiev (via Kharkiv) .
During the reporting period, the number of men and women in military-style dress, crossing the border in both directions, decreased from 252 to 232 at both BCPs. These people continued crossing the border individually or in groups and on foot or using different types of transport (in addition to vehicles, some used busses, but also bikes and motorbikes). Approximately eighty-five per cent of this category’s crossings occurred at the Donetsk BCP. The OTs continued to observe that from time to time persons in military-style dress have travelled across the border by bus, which makes it more difficult for the OTs to observe their movement across the border. The OTs also continued to observe physically fit young and middle-aged men in civilian clothing, with short haircuts, many of whom carry camouflage-coloured backpacks.
Furthermore, the OTs continued to observe vehicles with Ukrainian license plates, including articulated trucks, with “Donetsk People’s Republic / Lugansk People’s Republic” (“DPR/LPR”) stickers on their license plates replacing the Ukrainian flag.
During the reporting week, the OM continued to observe a high number of trucks, crossing the border in both directions, including intense cargo truck traffic at both BCPs and dumper trucks transporting coal from the Luhansk region to the Russian Federation through the Gukovo BCP. While the majority of the trucks are registered in the Luhansk region, the OTs also observed trucks registered in the Russian Federation and Republic of Belarus that crossed the border. During the reporting week, the OTs have observed that the number of trucks registered in Republic of Belarus increased from 25 to 38; these trucks were observed crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. Thirty-five of these trucks crossed at the Donetsk BCP with only three such crossings recorded at the Gukovo BCP. Separately, the OTs also observed tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. The number of tanker trucks has shown a large increase from 28 last week to 60 this week. The majority of these trucks (56) crossed at the Donetsk BCP, while the remaining four crossed in Gukovo BCP. These trucks for the most part had the word “Propane” and “Flammable” written across the tanks in Russian language.
At the two BCPs the OM did not observe military movement, apart from the movement of Russian Federation Border Guard Service vehicles transporting BCP personnel and supplies.
Observation at the Gukovo BCP
The traffic flow at the Gukovo BCP has increased compared to last week. A daily average of 3,149 entries and exits was recorded, which accounted for just under ten per cent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow went from plus 123 to plus 98 (i.e. more entries into the Russian Federation) on average per day.
During the reporting period, the OM observed a total of 35 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Gukovo BCP, 16 of whom left for Ukraine while 19 entered the Russian Federation.
As in previous weeks, the OM observed dumper trucks transporting coal from the Luhansk region to the Russian Federation. As reported previously, the OTs saw Russian Federation customs and border service personnel checking that the trucks were empty while leaving the Russian Federation.
The OTs continued to pick up on the sound of trains running on the train tracks located approximately 150 meters south-west of the BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on 22 occasions; the OTs estimated that 11 trains were going to the Russian Federation and 11 trains were bound for Ukraine. Visual observation was not possible because of the line of trees in between the train tracks and the BCP.
On 18 July, the OT noted two separate groups of four and eight young males carrying rucksacks crossing the border from Ukraine to the Russian Federation at 11:09hrs and 12:13hrs respectively. All the males appeared to be in their early to mid-twenties, with short hair, and of athletic build.
On three consecutive days (15, 16 and 17 July), the OTs heard the sound of explosions in the vicinity of the BCP. On 15 July, the OT heard the sound of four explosions at 17:08hrs, 17:33hrs, 17:55hrs and 18:20hrs respectively. The OT noted that the explosions sounded like artillery fire and that they came from a south-south-westerly direction. On 16 July, the OT heard four single explosions at 14:15hrs, 14:45hrs, 15:30hrs and 16:07hrs respectively. The sound emanated from a west-north-westerly direction. On 17 July, the OT heard the sound of two explosions at 10:32hrs and 10:45hrs respectively from a west-north-westerly direction. The OT was unable to ascertain the cause /source of any of these explosions.
Observation at the Donetsk BCP
During the reporting period the activity at the Donetsk BCP has increased compared to last week. The daily average of 7,837 entries and exits accounted for just under twenty-four per cent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow changed from minus 44 to minus 265 (i.e. more exits from the Russian Federation) on average per day. During the reporting week, the OT observed 197 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Donetsk BCP individually and in groups; 119 persons entered the Russian Federation while 78 left for Ukraine.
During the reporting week the OTs noted five ambulances at the Donetsk BCP. On all five occasions the OTs noted that the ambulances had come from the Russian Federation. On one occasion (14 July at 10:15hrs) the OT observed an ambulance crew providing medical treatment to a teenage male. On the other four occasions, the ambulances parked behind the main building, not allowing the OTs to observe whether the ambulances’ staff was providing treatment or transporting persons. On all five occasions the ambulances returned to the Russian Federation within a short period of time.
On 15 July at 11:25hrs the OT noted the arrival to the BCP of 12 busses from the Russian Federation where they parked. These busses were carrying a large group of children aged from six to ten years old and they were accompanied by a police escort. A short time later a convoy of 16 empty buses entered the BCP from Ukraine and exited to the Russian Federation. The children then boarded the Ukrainian busses and crossed to Ukraine.
On 17 July at 14:20hrs the OT noted the arrival at the BCP from Ukraine of a group of Russian Federation vehicles (2 cars and 3 motorcycles). Two of the motorcyclists were wearing motorcycle jackets with the crest of “Night Wolves” on the rear. Both of the cars displayed the flags of Novorossiya, “DPR” and “LPR”. After having been checked by the Russian Federation Border Guard and Customs Services, this group proceeded into the Russian Federation.
On 16 July at 07:05hrs (Moscow time), a Russian convoy arrived at the Donetsk BCP (see the OM Spot Report of 16 July 2015). A total of 50 vehicles – 43 cargo trucks and 7 support vehicles – were visually checked from the outside by the Russian Federation Border Guard and Customs Services; three Russian service dogs were used to check most of the cargo trucks. Ukrainian officials were present during the checks, both on the convoy’s outward and inward journeys. All the vehicles had crossed back into the Russian Federation by 14:40hrs on the same day.
 First-responders are OSCE staff or mission members deployed to another mission for a short period of time.