Weekly update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 08:00 (Moscow time), on 22 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) but the total number of border-crossings has again decreased. More people left than entered the Russian Federation (RF) at the two observed BCPs although this return movement has continued to slow down. The OM observed again a considerable number of persons in military-style clothing crossing the border in both directions, few of them apparently belonging to Cossack units. Truck convoys continued to transport coal from the Luhansk region to the RF.
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 19 staff members (including three administrative assistants). The mission has been busy preparing for both options, closure or extension after 23 October.
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 significantly from 8,965 to 7,843 per day for both BCPs during this reporting period. The majority of people continued to cross the border from the Russian Federation (RF) to Ukraine although their numbers further decreased. The average net flow, i.e. the balance of entries and exits, fell from minus 690 to minus 466 per day for both BCPs. 3,260 persons have returned to Ukraine through both BCPs compared to 4,827 during the previous week. Again Donetsk BCP experienced more traffic than Gukovo BCP. The cross-border movements registered at both BCPs still 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). Those who crossed the border from Ukraine reported that the situation remained largely calm in the Luhansk region. However, the number of small arms shootings and artillery fire reported to the OM has slightly increased. People from urban areas worry about heating during winter as the centralised heating system has been destroyed in many places, while inhabitants of villages rely on autonomous heating with wood or coal. Again, the OM observed numerous people bringing small generators from the RF to Ukraine.
Regular local and long-distance bus connections are in operation between the Luhansk region and cities in the RF.
This week the OTs observed 540 men and women in military-style dress who crossed the border in both directions. They crossed predominantly at Donetsk BCP and in both directions. Among them again were several Cossacks. The observers did not see any of them carrying weapons.
As in previous weeks, the OM observed a number of wounded or sick persons who crossed on their own or were transferred by ambulances from Ukraine to the RF. On 17 October three ambulance vans were observed at Donetsk BCP.
At the two BCPs the OM did not observe any military movement, apart from vehicles of the RF border guard service. The OTs at both BCPs observed helicopter activity on 15 October. One RF navy helicopter was observed at Gukovo BCP and one unidentified helicopter at Donetsk BCP. Within the limitations of observing the aircraft without technical means, the OT assessed that both aircraft did not cross the border in the vicinity of the BCPs.
Observation at the Gukovo BCP
The overall traffic flow at Gukovo BCP increased compared to last week. A daily average of 2,731 entries and exits was recorded, which accounted for fourteen percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow continued to be negative for the sixth week in a row but during this reporting period a daily average of 69 persons only left the RF. This statistic indicates a continuous but decelerating return movement to Ukraine.
During the week, the OM observed a total of 62 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at Gukovo BCP, seventeen left for Ukraine while 45 entered the RF.
In two instances on 16 and 21 October, the OTs heard small arms shooting from a nearby firing range on Ukrainian territory, which was already mentioned in previous updates.
Every day the OTs continued to observe convoys of six to ten dumper trucks. Except for weekends they crossed on average twice per day from Ukraine to the RF and back. The OTs noticed a few trucks that were visibly loaded with coal when entering the RF. Several times the observer saw RF customs officers verifying if the trucks were empty while exiting the RF.
Observation at the Donetsk BCP
During the reporting period, the activity at the Donetsk BCP remained at similar levels. The daily average of 5,112 entries and exits was slightly lower than during the previous week. This number accounted for 26 percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow remained negative but decreased further from 565 to 396 exits to Ukraine on average per day. The total number of border-crossings at Donetsk BCP was almost double that of Gukovo BCP. These figures again indicate a slowdown of the return movement into Ukraine.
478 persons in military clothing crossed the border at Donetsk BCP individually or in groups and predominantly into the RF.
The OT heard one instance of small arms shooting on 19 October.