Weekly update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 10:00 (Moscow time), 5 November 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 slowed down slightly at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs) and the total number of border-crossings was the lowest since August. As in previous weeks, more people left than entered the Russian Federation (RF) at the two observed BCPs. The OM continued to observe a considerable number of persons in military-style clothing, some of them apparently belonging to Cossack units, crossing the border in both directions. However, their numbers also decreased from the previous weeks. Three Russian convoys crossed into Ukraine at the Donetsk BCP.
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 decreased from 7,906 to 7,042 per day for both BCPs during the reporting period. The majority of people continued to cross the border from the Russian Federation (RF) to Ukraine. The average net flow, i.e. the balance of entries and exits, increased from minus 197 to minus 648 per day for both BCPs. The number of people returning to Ukraine through both BCPs increased from 1,381 last week to 4,537 in the reporting period. This increase may be linked to the so-called elections held in the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and the “Lugansk People’s Republic” on 2 November. Donetsk BCP continued to experience more traffic than Gukovo BCP. The cross-border movements registered at both BCPs accounted for 38 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. Due to the cold weather conditions, the number of people crossing the border and talking to the Observer Teams (OTs) continued to decrease. Those who crossed the border from Ukraine reported that the situation remained largely calm in the Luhansk region. However, there is a general feeling that the situation is getting more tense in the area. This may be linked with the so-called elections held on 2 November. The number of small arms shootings and artillery fire reported to the OM has slightly increased. People from urban areas continue to worry about heating during winter as centralised heating systems have reportedly been destroyed in many places. Again, the OM observed numerous people bringing small generators from the RF to Ukraine. The OTs have also observed new businesses in the vicinity of the BCPs selling generators of all sizes.
Regular local and long-distance bus connections continue to operate between the Luhansk region and cities in the RF.
During the reporting period, the OTs observed 417 men and women in military-style dress crossing the border in both directions. This number is lower than in the previous week (569). These border crossings were made predominantly at Donetsk BCP in both directions. Several Cossacks were also observed by the OTs. The Cossacks are identified by the specific papakha (astrakhan hat) they wear as well as by Cossack insignias. The observers did not see any of them carrying weapons.
As in previous weeks, the OM observed some wounded or sick persons crossing the border on their own or being transferred by ambulances from Ukraine to the RF.
At the two BCPs the OM did not observe any military movement, apart from vehicles of the RF border guard service. No aircraft activity was observed at or in the vicinity of the BCPs.
Observation at the Gukovo BCP
The overall traffic flow at Gukovo BCP decreased slightly compared to last week. A daily average of 2,543 entries and exits was recorded, which accounted for approximately fourteen percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow continued to be negative for the seventh week in a row and the daily average of people leaving the RF increased from 41 to 191. This increase may be linked to the so-called elections held on 2 November.
During the week, the OM observed a total of 31 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at Gukovo BCP, 17 of them left for Ukraine while 14 entered the RF.
The OM observed continued high numbers of dumper trucks transporting coal from the Luhansk region to the RF. As reported previously, the observers saw RF customs officers verifying that the trucks were empty while exiting the RF.
Observation at the Donetsk BCP
During the reporting period, the activity at the Donetsk BCP slowed down slightly. The daily average of 4,498 entries and exits was lower than during the previous weeks. This number accounted for approximately 24 percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow remained negative and increased from 156 to 457 exits to Ukraine on average per day. These increased figures may be linked to the so-called elections on 2 November. On 1 November the OT observed the border crossing of a group of 23 civilians from RF to Ukraine. RF border officials later confirmed that the group were “election observers”, allegedly from eight different countries. On 3 November the OT observed the return of a group of so-called observers but could not find out more details about their number and citizenship as interaction with the group was not possible. The total number of border-crossings at Donetsk BCP continued to be almost double that of Gukovo BCP.
The OT observed 386 persons in military clothing crossing the border at Donetsk BCP individually and in groups, in almost even numbers in both directions.
During the reporting period, the OM observed the passage of three Russian convoys through the Donetsk BCP to Ukraine, on 31 October, 2 November and 4 November respectively (see related Spot Reports). The first convoy consisted of 42 vehicles and was inspected by both Russian and Ukrainian border guard and customs services. The second convoy, consisted of 32 vehicles, was cleared solely by Russian border guard and customs officers. The third convoy consisted of 10 vehicles and was inspected by RF officials only. The Ukrainian officers, stationed across the fence from the BCP, did not take part in the inspection process but took pictures and observed the proceedings. All convoys returned to RF the same day they had crossed the border.