Weekly update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 08:00 (Moscow time), on 8 October 2014
This report is for media and the general public.
KAMENSK-SHAKHTINSKY, Russian Federation. The Observer Mission (OM) is operating at full capacity. Cross-border traffic flows remained relatively steady at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs) although the total number of border-crossings has decreased. Similar to the previous week, more people left the Russian Federation (RF) for Ukraine at the two observed BCPs. However, the OM observed an increased number of persons in military-style clothing crossing the border in both directions, some of them apparently belonging to Cossack units. Truck convoys transport coal from the Luhansk region to the RF since the local cross-border railway track is reportedly non-operational.
OM’s arrival, establishment and observation work
Sixteen international observers continued to provide a permanent presence at the two BCPs of Donetsk and Gukovo. The OM is currently operating with 18 staff members (including two administrative assistants).
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 by car with a lot of luggage;
- Elderly people with few bags;
- Adults (usually of younger age) with no luggage or empty cars;
- People wearing military-style clothes with or without backpacks.
The average number of entries/exits has decreased from 8,289 to 7,662 per day for both BCPs during this reporting period. The OM has observed that the majority of people continued to cross the border from the Russian Federation (RF) to Ukraine, with an average net flow, i.e. the balance of entries and exits, of minus 1,213 per day for both BCPs. 8,493 persons have returned to Ukraine through both BCPs. Again Donetsk BCP experienced more traffic than Gukovo BCP. The cross-border movements registered at both BCPs account for 41 percent 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 the long-distance coaches commuting between Luhansk and cities in the RF.
Common observations at the BCPs
The situation at both BCPs remained calm. People who cross the border regularly talk to the Observer Teams (OTs). Many interlocutors expressed their desire for a lasting peace. Those who crossed the border from Ukraine reported that the situation remained largely calm in the Luhansk region and that water and electricity supplies have resumed in several parts. Again, many complained about the high prices. This is particularly difficult for pensioners who have not received their pensions for more than four months.
Regular local and long-distance bus connections are in operation between the Luhansk region and cities in the RF.
Throughout the week, the OTs observed an increase from 372 to 555 men and women in military-style dress who crossed the border in both directions, predominantly at Donetsk BCP and among them a significant number of Cossacks.. The observers did not see any of them carrying weapons.
The number of aircraft observations remained at a low level. No helicopters have been observed during the reporting period. Since 1 October the OTs have heard the reoccurring sound of a propeller aircraft at Gukovo BCP. It was following the same flight patterns in regular schedules with intervals varying from 20 to 30 minutes.
Observation at the Gukovo BCP
The traffic flow at Gukovo BCP remained at a comparable level as last week. A daily average of 2,458 entries and exits was recorded, which accounted for thirteen percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow continued to be negative for the fourth week in a row, with a daily average of 198 persons leaving the RF. This statistic indicates a continual return movement into Ukraine.
During the week, the OM observed a total of 50 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at Gukovo BCP, fourteen left for Ukraine and 36 entered the RF.
The OTs heard several instances of small arms fire from the direction of Chervonopartizansk on Ukrainian territory. As described earlier, these incidents were assessed as not combat related, and reportedly originate from an improvised ‘shooting range’ under the control of supporters of the self-proclaimed republics. Its use had halted in the week after the ceasefire protocol was signed on 5 September (see weekly report of 17 September 2014).
Since 1 October the OTs observed every day five to twelve dumper trucks crossing to Ukraine and back. All trucks are registered in Ukraine and some of them belong to a construction company ‘SDMS’ in Luhansk. According to one local worker, the trucks are transporting coal from Ukraine to the RF because the local railway track from Gukovo to Chervonopartizansk is damaged and not operational.
Observation at the Donetsk BCP
During the reporting period, the activity at the Donetsk BCP remained at the same level. The daily average of entries and exits decreased from 5,424 to 5,204. This number accounted for 28 percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow remained negative with 1,016 exits to Ukraine on average per day. The total number of border-crossings at Donetsk BCP was double that of Gukovo BCP. Similar to the Gukovo BCP, these figures reflect a return movement into Ukraine.
The number of persons in military clothing who crossed the border at Donetsk BCP individually or in groups has increased. The OTs observed a total of 505 persons who in contrast to the previous week predominantly crossed from the RF to Ukraine.