Weekly update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 10:00 (Moscow time), 8 April 2015
This report is for media and the general public.
KAMENSK-SHAKHTINSKIY, Russian Federation. The Observer Mission (OM) continues to operate 24/7 at both BCPs. The overall cross-border traffic slightly decreased at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs).
OM’s staff composition
The OM is currently operating with 20 staff members, consisting of 18 permanent international observers (incl. the Chief Observer) and two first-responders (one of which is an administrative assistant). Six 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 categorized as follows:
- Families on foot or travelling by car, with a lot of luggage, often accompanied by elderly people;
- Adults (usually of younger age) with no luggage or empty cars;
- People wearing military-style clothes with or without backpacks, crossing on foot or in vehicles.
As compared to last week, the average number of entries/exits decreased overall from 7, 279 to 7,049 per day for both BCPs. The average net flow went from minus 75 to minus 310 (i.e. more exits from the Russian Federation). This continues to exhibit the trend observed by the OM for the past seven weeks of more people returning 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 exactly 33 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 an increasing number of articulated trucks and 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. In addition to regular bus connections, the Observer Teams (OTs) also continued to observe bus connections on irregular routes. Often the buses do not state their direct route; instead they just have a sign in the window saying “Irregular”.
During the reporting period, the number of men and women in military-style dress crossing the border in both directions increased from 448 to 484 at both BCPs. These people have been crossing individually or in groups and on foot or in 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 OM continued to observe an increased number of trucks crossing the border in both directions. The OTs continued to observe dumper trucks transporting coal from the Luhansk region to the Russian Federation through the BCP Gukovo. The OTs observed intense trailer truck traffic at BCP Donetsk crossing the border in both directions. The OTs also 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.
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 decreased compared to last week. A daily average of 2,016 entries and exits was recorded, which accounted for over nine percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow went from plus 87 (i.e. more entries to the Russian Federation) to plus 4 on average per day.
During the week, the OM observed a total of 49 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Gukovo BCP, 17 of whom left for Ukraine while 32 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 nineteen occasions during the reporting week; the OTs estimated that nine trains were going to Ukraine; ten were bound for the Russian Federation. Visual observation of one of the trains bound for Ukraine was possible: it consisted of a locomotive and approximately twelve wagons.
Observation at the Donetsk BCP
During the reporting period the activity at the Donetsk BCP decreased compared to last week. The daily average of 5,033 entries and exits accounted for just under twenty four percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The OM observed that the number of daily average entries and exits has been slowly decreasing over the past four weeks. The net flow changed from minus 162 (i.e. more exiting from Russian Federation) to minus 313 on average per day. Although the net flow numbers fluctuate from week to week, observations at the BCP Donetsk show that still more people exit the Russian Federation for Ukraine. The OT observed 435 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Donetsk BCP individually and in groups; 235 persons entered the Russian Federation while 200 left for Ukraine.
During the reporting week the OTs observed four ambulances at the Donetsk BCP. On one occasion an ambulance arrived from the Russian Federation side to pick up a middle-aged lady who felt weak at the BCP. No wounded persons were observed in any of these four ambulances.
On 2 April 2015 at 07:34hrs (Moscow time), a Russian convoy arrived at the Donetsk Border Crossing Point (BCP). A total of 42 vehicles- 38 cargo trucks and 4 support vehicles- were checked by the Russian border guard and customs services. Russian service dogs were used to check the outgoing convoy and were present on site and not used during the incoming convoy. Ukrainian officers were present on site both when the convoy was leaving the Russian Federation and when it returned. All the vehicles had crossed back into the Russian Federation by 14:56hrs on 2 April.