Weekly update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 10:00 (Moscow time), 19 November 2014
This report is for media and the general public.
Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Russian Federation. As mandated, the Observer Mission (OM) is operating 24/7 at both BCPs. Overall cross-border traffic flows decreased at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs). Traffic flows changed again in that slightly more people left than entered the Russian Federation (RF) at the two observed BCPs. The OM continued to observe a significant number of persons in military-style clothing crossing the border in both directions. The OM observed a Russian convoy crossing to and returning from Ukraine through Donetsk BCP on 16 November.
OM’s arrival, establishment and observation work
The OM is currently operating with 19 staff members, consisting of 14 permanent international observers (incl. the Chief Observer), 3 temporary international observers and 2 administrative assistants. Three of the international observers are currently on leave or on duty trip abroad.
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 7,523 to 6,874 per day for both BCPs during the reporting period. The majority of people crossed the border from the Russian Federation (RF) to Ukraine. The average net flow, i.e. the balance of entries and exits, was minus 27 per day for both BCPs. Donetsk BCP continued to experience more traffic than Gukovo BCP. The cross-border movements registered at both BCPs accounted for 35 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. The OM continued to observe that the RF border guard and customs service conducted checks and controls more strictly at both BCPs. The OM has seen more armed border guards at the BCPs, particularly at night, than in the past weeks.
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, the general perception continued that the situation has become tenser in the area. Interlocutors continued to mention small arms shootings and artillery fire to the OM, e.g. from the areas of Stakhanov, Krasniy Luch, and Stanitsya Luhanska. As during the past weeks, the OM observed numerous people bringing small generators from the RF to Ukraine, which are also being sold from trucks in the vicinity of the BCPs.
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 518 men and women in military-style dress crossing the border in both directions. These people have been crossing individually or in groups. These border crossings were made predominantly at Donetsk BCP in both directions. The OTs also observed several Cossacks who were identified by their traditional fur hats, as well as by Cossack insignias. The observers did not see any of them carrying weapons.
As in previous weeks, the OM observed injured or sick persons crossing the border 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. A Russian military helicopter was observed overflying Gukovo BCP on 18 November, approaching from the north-east and leaving to the south-east. Within the limitations of observing aircraft without technical means, the border observers on site assessed that the aircraft did not violate the Ukrainian airspace in the vicinity of the BCP.
Observation at the Gukovo BCP
The traffic flows at Gukovo BCP decreased slightly compared to last week. A daily average of 2,272 entries and exits was recorded, which accounted for approximately twelve percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. A daily average of seven persons left the RF and entered Ukraine.
During the week, the OM observed a total of 46 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at Gukovo BCP, 21 of them left for Ukraine while 25 entered the RF.
The OM continued to observe 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 leaving the RF.
Observation at the Donetsk BCP
During the reporting period, activity at the Donetsk BCP decreased. The daily average of 4,602 entries and exits accounted for approximately 24 percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow changed from 119 entrances to the RF to 20 exits to Ukraine on average per day. The total number of border-crossings at Donetsk BCP continued to be double that of Gukovo BCP.
The OT observed 472 persons in military clothing crossing the border at Donetsk BCP individually and in groups, predominantly to the RF.
On 14 November the OT heard a total of five shots from small firearms at an estimated distance of 3km south-east of the BCP. On 17 November the OT heard a single strong explosion to the north-west of Donetsk BCP. The origin of this explosion remains unknown to the OM.
On 16 November in the morning, a Russian convoy crossed for the sixth time through Donetsk BCP and returned in the afternoon of the same day. The convoy consisted of twenty vehicles, mainly fuel and cargo lorries. Some of the vehicles were marked with flags of the RF Ministry for Emergency Situations. A separate spot report was issued.