Weekly update from the Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 10:00 (Moscow time), 26 November 2014
This report is for media and the general public.
Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Russian Federation. The Observer Mission (OM)’s mandate has been extended until 23 December. It continues to operate 24/7 at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs). Overall cross-border traffic flows increased at both BCPs. Traffic flows turned again and slightly more people entered than left 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.
OM’s arrival, establishment and observation work
The OM is currently operating with 19 staff members, consisting of 13 permanent international observers (incl. the Chief Observer), four temporary international observers and two administrative assistants. Five 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, about half of them with backpacks.
The average number of entries/exits increased from 6,874 to 7,819 per day for both BCPs during the reporting period. More people entered the RF than exited to Ukraine. The average net flow, i.e. the balance of entries and exits, was 44 per day for both BCPs. The Donetsk BCP continued to experience more traffic than the Gukovo BCP. The cross-border movements registered at both BCPs accounted for 39 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.
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 except for Pervomaysk and Shchastya where some of those crossing the border heard exchanges of heavy fire. People crossing the border and talking to the OM continued to perceive the situation in the area as tense. As during the past weeks, the OM observed people bringing small generators from the RF to Ukraine.
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 590 individuals (mostly men, about 10 women) in military-style dress crossing the border in both directions. These people have been crossing individually or in groups of three to ten people. The OTs noted that there were more groups than usual. These border crossings occurred predominantly at the 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 OTs observed an increased number of cars having “DPR/LPR” stickers replacing the Ukrainian flag on their licence plates.
At the two BCPs the OM did not observe any military movement, apart from vehicles of the RF border guard service.
Observation at the Gukovo BCP
The traffic flow at the Gukovo BCP increased by 33 percent compared to last week. A daily average of 3,026 entries and exits was recorded, which accounted for approximately fifteen percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow was 33 persons entering the RF on average per day.
During the week, the OM observed a total of 56 persons (55 men and 1 woman)in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Gukovo BCP, 25 of them left for Ukraine while 31 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.
On 20 November at 21:30hrs, an OT heard the noise of a train passing from the RF to UA close to the Gukovo BCP. The OT was not able to see the train due to the tree edge or barrier that separates the BCP from the railway.
Observation at the Donetsk BCP
During the reporting period, the activity at the Donetsk BCP slightly increased. The daily average of 4,793 entries and exits accounted for approximately 24 percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow turned from minus 20 (i.e. exits to Ukraine) to plus 11 (i.e. entries to the RF) on average per day. The total number of border-crossings at the Donetsk BCP was 50 percent higher than at the Gukovo BCP.
The OT observed 534 persons (among them 3 women) in military clothing crossing the border at the Donetsk BCP individually and in groups, predominantly to the RF.