Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 30 June 2015
Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy, 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).
OM’s staff composition
The OM is currently operating with 19 staff members, consisting of 18 permanent international observers (incl. the Chief Observer) and one first-responder, who is performing the duties of administrative assistant. Four 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, by car or by bus, 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 the border on foot or in vehicles.
As compared to last week, the average number of entries/exits increased overall from 9,795 to 10,153 per day for both BCPs; the average net flow went from plus 259 to minus 17 (i.e. more exits from the Russian Federation). The Donetsk BCP continued to experience more traffic than the Gukovo BCP. The cross-border movements registered at both BCPs accounted for just under 34 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. The number of articulated trucks and long-distance coaches commuting between Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation continues to be considerable.
Common observations at the BCPs
The situation at both BCPs remained calm. The OM continued to observe the Russian Federation Border Guard and Customs Services perform checks and controls.
Regular bus connections continued to operate between the Luhansk region and the Russian Federation. In addition to regular bus connections, the Observer Teams (OTs) continued to observe bus connections on irregular routes. Often those buses do not display their route or just have a sign on the windshield stating “Irregular”.
During the reporting period, the number of men and women in military-style dress, crossing the border in both directions, increased from 241 to 292 at both BCPs. Approximately eighty-five per cent of this category’s crossings occurred at the Donetsk BCP. These people continued to cross the border individually or in groups and on foot or using different transportation means (passenger cars, minivans, busses, bikes and motorbikes). Some of the people in this category are using busses to cross the border, making it more difficult for the OTs to observe their movement. The OTs also continued to observe physically fit young and middle-aged men dressed in civilian clothing. Often times, these men have short haircuts, carry camouflage-coloured backpacks and travel through the BCPs individually or in groups.
Furthermore, the OTs continued to observe vehicles (passenger cars, minivans, cargo trucks, buses) registered in Ukraine, with “Donetsk People’s Republic / Lugansk People’s Republic” (“DPR/LPR”) stickers on their license plates replacing the Ukrainian flag.
During the reporting week, the OTs continued to observe a high number of trucks. Cargo and dumper trucks transporting coal from Luhansk region to the Russian Federation crossed the border in both directions through the Gukovo BCP. While the majority of the trucks are registered in Luhansk region, the OTs also observed that trucks registered in the Russian Federation and Republic of Belarus crossed the border. The OTs have also noted that during the reporting week the number of trucks registered in Republic of Belarus crossing the border has decreased from 69 to 48. In addition, the OTs also observed 37 tanker trucks; these trucks for the most part had the word “Propane” and “Flammable” written across the tankers in Russian.
Throughout the week, the OTs observed a noticeable increase in aircraft activity in the vicinity of the BCPs.
The OTs also observed four ambulances provide assistance to civilians at the two BCPs.
At both BCPs the OM did not observe military movement, apart from usual vehicle movements of the Russian Federation Border Guard Service.
Observation at the Gukovo BCP
The traffic flow at the Gukovo BCP has increased compared to last week. A daily average of 2836 entries and exits was recorded, which accounted for just over nine per cent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow went from plus 90 to plus 57 (i.e. more entries to the Russian Federation) on average per day.
During the reporting period, the OM observed a total of 34 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Gukovo BCP, 19 of whom left for Ukraine while 15 entered the Russian Federation.
As in previous weeks, the OM observed dumper trucks transporting coal from the Luhansk region to the Russian Federation. The OT also observed tanker trucks with the word “Propane” or “Flammable” and orange articulated fuel trucks crossing the border in both directions.
The OTs continued to pick up the sound of trains running on the train tracks located approximately 150 meters south-west of the BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on fourteen occasions; the OTs estimated that seven trains went to Ukraine and seven trains went to the Russian Federation. Visual observation was not possible because of the line of trees in between the train tracks and the BCP.
On two occasions (both on 24 June) OTs observed a helicopter flying along the border. According to the OTs, as far as observed without technical means, the aircrafts did not violate the Ukrainian airspace.
The OTs continue to observe on occasion that long-distance buses, arriving to the BCP from Russian Federation, have to wait for several hours before being allowed to enter the BCP
On the 27 June, at 11:29 hrs, the OT heard 28 single shots from a light calibre weapon coming from the south-east. The distance was estimated to be approximately one kilometre from the BCP.
On the 28 June, between 21:04 and 21:11 hrs, the OT heard 23 single shots coming from a south-eastern direction. The sound of the shots was clear and the estimated distance was one to two kilometres away.
Observation at the Donetsk BCP
During the reporting period, the activity at the Donetsk BCP has increased compared to last week. The daily average of 7318 entries and exits accounted for just over twenty four percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow changed from plus 169 to minus 74 on average per day (i.e. more exits from the Russian Federation). During the reporting week, the OT observed 258 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Donetsk BCP individually or in groups; 141 persons in military-style clothing entered the Russian Federation while 117 of them left for Ukraine.
During the reporting week, the OTs observed three ambulances at the Donetsk BCP. On all three occasions, the ambulances arrived from Ukraine carrying elderly people. All ambulances returned to Ukraine.
In addition, during the reporting week the OTs observed the movement of buses with children crossing the border in both directions.
As previously mentioned, the OTs observed an increase in aircraft activity in the vicinity of the BCP. On 25 and 26 June, helicopters were observed flying on the Russian Federation side and the OTs also picked up the sound propeller planes. The OTs did not have a visual contact of the mentioned propeller planes.
On 25 June 2015 at 06:05hrs (Moscow time), a Russian convoy arrived at the Donetsk BCP (see the OM Spot Report of 25 June). A total of 47 vehicles (40 cargo trucks and 7 support vehicles) were visually checked from the outside by the Russian Federation Border Guard and Customs Services; one Russian service dog was used to check most of the cargo trucks. Ukrainian officials were present during the checks both on its outward and inward journeys. All the vehicles had crossed back into the Russian Federation by 16:31 hrs on the same day.
 First-responders are OSCE staff or mission members deployed to another mission for a short period of time.