Latest update by the OSCE Observer Mission at the Russian checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk, based on information received as of 22hrs, 4 August 2014
This update is provided for media and general public.
KAMENSK-SHAKHTINSKY, Russian Federation, 4 August 2014 - On 1-2 August 2014 Ukrainian army officers made contact with the OSCE Observer Mission (OM) to request OSCE assistance to open a passageway to the Gukovo border crossing point (BCP) of the Russian Federation (RF) for several hundred Ukrainian servicemen. On 2 August, an initial group of 12 Ukrainian troops crossed into the RF. On 4 August, the OSCE Observer Mission witnessed the passage of 437 Ukrainian servicemen. They were sent to a nearby transit facility and, according to the local Russian authorities, all of them were set to return to Ukraine in the hours to come.
On 1-2 August the OSCE Observer Mission received calls from officers of the 72nd mechanized infantry brigade who claimed that around 600 Ukrainian servicemen were surrounded by separatists and left without ammunition, fuel and food. According to them, negotiations with the separatists to open a passageway had failed. The officers asked for the OM’s assistance in facilitating the transfer at the BCP and reached out to their leadership in the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence to accept this option. The OM relayed the information to the RF authorities to permit the safe transfer and received agreement.
On 2 August, 12 servicemen of the 72nd brigade crossed the border through the Gukovo BCP at 22:00. They were subsequently brought to a transit facility.
On 3 August the acting chief Observer was contacted by the commander of the twelve servicemen and had an opportunity to talk with him for an hour at Gukovo BCP. The commander had only one request: to be transferred with his subordinates as soon as possible back to Ukraine through a safe border checkpoint. The RF arranged for transportation of the 12 servicemen, who crossed the border back into Ukraine during the night of 3-4 August. The OSCE observers confirmed the crossing into Ukraine with the commander by phone.
On 3 August late in the evening, a commanding officer of the 72nd brigade returned to meet the OM again at the Gukovo BCP. The meeting took place in the presence of the Gukovo BCP commander. The OM discussed modalities of the transfer of a larger group of servicemen into the RF from Ukraine and confirmed them with the BCP commander.
From 00:45 to 10:20 on 4 August, a total of 437 servicemen (including 147 border guards) crossed into the RF in well-organized waves of 100 and were transferred to the transit facility. The wounded servicemen were given first aid and were sent by ambulance to hospital.
At 06:00 on 4 August, while Ukrainian servicemen were still crossing the border into RF, the OM heard explosions and gunfire of various calibre and witnessed considerable black fumes coming from the position previously held by the 72nd brigade on the territory of Ukraine. From 06:00 and throughout the day of 4 August (up to 15:00 when the OM team left the BCP after staying non-stop for 35 hours onsite) sporadic but heavy gunfire and shells were heard and seen, including shells falling into the RF.
At 15:00 on 4 August, the OM met with the Gukovo BCP commander and the regional border commander. The OM enquired about the transfer of the servicemen from RF to Ukraine and learned that 192 were already on their way by bus to Ukraine and that the others would follow in the next bus. The Observer Mission also enquired about any asylum request and none was reported. The cell phones of the 72nd brigade commander and border guard commander were not reachable to confirm this information.
The Observer Mission will continue their engagement and report about further developments in line with their mandate.