Weekly update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 10:00 (Moscow time), 21 January 2015
This report is for media and the general public.
Kamensk-Shakhtinsky, Russian Federation. The Observer Mission (OM) continues to operate 24/7 at both BCPs. Overall cross-border traffic flows slightly decreased at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs). The OM continued to observe a number of persons in military-style clothing crossing the border in both directions.
OM’s staff composition
The OM is currently operating with 17 staff members, consisting of 13 permanent international observers (incl. the Chief Observer), three temporary international observers and one administrative assistant. Two international observers are currently on leave.
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 slightly decreased from 6,421 to 6,295 per day for both BCPs during the reporting period. More people entered the Russian Federation than Ukraine. The average net flow (i.e. the balance of entries and exits) was plus 434 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 33.1 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 Russian Federation border guard and customs service conducted checks and controls.
Regular local and long-distance bus connections continued to operate between the Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation.
During the reporting period, the OTs observed 493 men and women in military-style dress crossing the border in both directions. These people have been crossing individually or in groups. Ninety five percent of border crossings occurred at the Donetsk BCP. The OTs continued to observe a number of Cossacks, who were identified by their traditional fur hats, as well as by Cossack insignias. Furthermore, the OTs continued to observe cars with “DPR/LPR” stickers on their licence plates replacing the Ukrainian flag.
More than in previous weeks, people crossing the border at both BCPs approached the OTs to share their stories, experiences and observations from the UA side of the border, for example, concentration of military near Donetsk and shelling of Donetsk and its airport, shelling of Luhansk and villages in the region. The OM is not in the position to verify any of these accounts. People crossing the border, in particular after the crossing of the last Russian convoy, complained to the OTs that aid is not reaching those in need and that the OSCE should oversee the distribution of the aid.
At the two BCPs the OM did not observe military movement, apart from vehicles of the Russian Federation border guard service.
Observation at the Gukovo BCP
The traffic flows at the Gukovo BCP slightly increased compared to last week. A daily average of 1,862 entries and exits was recorded, which accounted for approximately ten percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. Compared to last week still more people entered the Russian Federation. The net flow went from plus 158 (i.e. more exits from UA) to plus 74 on average per day.
During the week, the OM observed a total of 24 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Gukovo BCP, 4 of whom left for Ukraine while 20 entered the Russian Federation.
Compared to previous weeks, during the reporting week the OM observed far more dumper trucks transporting coal from the Luhansk region to the Russian Federation. As reported previously, the observers saw Russian Federation customs officers verifying that the trucks were empty while leaving the Russian Federation.
The armoured personnel carrier (APC), identified as BTR-80A, previously installed at the BCP as a routine BCP reinforcement during the holiday season, arrived at the BCP on 16 January and remained inside the hangar until 19 January when it left the hangar and was driven to a location outside of the OT’s range of visibility. The OT did not observe the APC leaving the actual area of the BCP.
The OTs picked up on the sound of a train passing by the BCP on seven occasions during the reporting week; the OTs estimated that five trains were going to Ukraine and two to the Russian Federation. Visual observation of the trains was not possible.
Observation at the Donetsk BCP
During the reporting period, the activity at the Donetsk BCP slightly decreased. The daily average of 4,433 entries and exits accounted for approximately twenty three percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow changed from plus 402 (i.e. more entering the Russian Federation) to plus 360 on average per day.
The OT observed 469 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Donetsk BCP individually and in groups, 234 persons entered the Russian Federation while 235 left for Ukraine.
On one occasion during the reporting week, the OTs heard several shots being fired in close proximity to the BCP. The OT estimated that shots came from the west.
One ambulance was observed arriving at the BCP from the Russian Federation, picking up an old lady and transporting her back into the Russian Federation.
On 20 January the OT observed the arrival at the BCP of a military truck with eight armed border officials clad in Gorka Hill (camouflage gear). They loaded some small boxes from the main BCP building into the truck and returned shortly thereafter to the Russian Federation. The whole process was observed by six Ukrainian border officials stationed near the BCP. The same truck, escorted by a police vehicle, returned later on the same day and once again re-entered the Russian Federation after approximately one hour.