Weekly update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 10:00 (Moscow time), 11 March 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. The overall cross-border traffic increased at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs) confirming OM’s predicted return of movement into Ukraine. The OM also observed an increase of the number of persons in military-style clothing crossing the border in both directions.
OM’s staff composition
The OM is currently operating with 23 staff members, consisting of 20 permanent international observers (incl. the Chief Observer) and three first-responders (one of which is an administrative assistant). Eight staff members 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 often accompanied with elderly people;
- Adults (usually of younger age) with no luggage or empty cars;
- People wearing military-style clothes with or without backpacks, crossing by foot or by vehicle.
As compared to last week, the average number of entries/exits increased overall from 6,860 to 7,062 per day for both BCPs. The average net flow (i.e. the balance of entries and exits) continues to demonstrate the trend observed over the past three weeks of more people exiting the Russian Federation to Ukraine. The average flow went from minus 292 to minus 355. Over the reporting period, 2,488 people have returned to Ukraine through the two BCPs. The Donetsk BCP continued to experience more traffic than the Gukovo BCP. The cross-border movements registered at both BCPs accounted for 31 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 Russian Federation, predominantly in the Rostov region.
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 number of men and women in military-style dress crossing the border in both directions increased from 546 to 681 at both BCPs. These people have been crossing individually or in groups and by foot or by vehicles. Approximately ninety percent of border crossings occurred at the Donetsk BCP. The OTs continued to observe a number of Cossacks, who were identified by their traditional hats, as well as by Cossack insignias. Furthermore, the OTs continued to observe Ukrainian cars with “DPR/LPR” stickers on their license plates replacing the Ukrainian flag.
During the reporting week, the OTs observed tanker trucks crossing the border both ways. These crossings occurred at both BCPs. These trucks for the most part had the word “Propane” and “Flammable” written across the tanks in Russian.
Vehicles with foreign registration plates were also observed crossing the border at both BCPs.
People crossing the border continue to approach the OTs and voice their opinions about the situation in Ukraine. On one occasion at the BCP Donetsk a group of three males dressed in civilian clothing approached the OT. The males were visibly annoyed and questioned the OT why the OSCE is present on the Russian Federation side of the border as opposed to Ukraine where they said “atrocities are taking place”. The OT explained the Mandate of the OM and informed the males that there is an OSCE Mission in Ukraine.
At the two BCPs the OM did not observe military movement, apart from the usual vehicles of the Russian Federation Border Guard Service.
Observation at the Gukovo BCP
The traffic flow at the Gukovo BCP slightly increased compared to last week. A daily average of 2,074 entries and exits was recorded, which accounted for just over nine percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow went from minus 3 (i.e. more exits from Russian Federation) to minus 15 on average per day. This continues to illustrate the trend of the past three weeks that more people exit the Russian Federation to Ukraine.
During the week, the OM observed a total of 41 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Gukovo BCP, 20 of whom left for Ukraine while 21 entered the Russian Federation.
As in previous weeks, the OM observed 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 OTs picked up on the sound of trains running down the train tracks located approximately 150 meters south west of the BCP on twenty occasions during the reporting week; the OTs estimated that eleven trains were going to Ukraine; nine were bound for the Russian Federation. On one occasion the OT was able to estimate that a train bound for Ukraine moved slowly and heavily. Some visual observation was possible in four cases. The OT estimated that two trains bound for Ukraine had approximately between 65 and 70 wagons. Two trains going to the Russian Federation were composed of only two locomotives each. In other cases visual observation was not possible. There is a line of trees in between the train tracks in question and therefore visual observation, especially in the bad weather and after dark, is not always possible.
On two occasions during the reporting week, the OTs heard explosions from a west-north-west direction. The first time there was one long explosion estimated to come from a distance over 7 kilometers away. The second time there were two explosions heard coming from roughly the same direction. Although the OM is not in a position to verify the nature and source of these explosions, they sounded more like explosions related to coal mining activities rather than the military.
Observation at the Donetsk BCP
During the reporting period the activity at the Donetsk BCP slightly increased compared to last week. The daily average of 4,988 entries and exits accounted for exactly twenty two percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow changed from minus 289 (i.e. more exiting from Russian Federation) to minus 340 on average per day which continues to show the clear reverse flow in the cross-border movement since the 15 February ceasefire.
The OT observed 598 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Donetsk BCP individually and in groups; 325 persons entered the Russian Federation while 273 left for Ukraine.
Over the past week, the OTs observed six ambulances at BCP Donetsk. On two occasions ambulances were called to treat elderly persons who were unwell at the BCP. On another occasion an ambulance crossed the border from Ukraine to the Russian Federation and came back later the same day loaded with boxes. No wounded persons were observed in any of these six ambulances.