CORRECTION: Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 7 July 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, which is performing the duties of 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 categorised as follows:
- Families on foot or travelling by car and busses, 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.
For the past two weeks, the traffic has maintained an average above ten thousand crossings per day. The last time such a high traffic was recorded was in August 2014 during high intensity combats and a few days after the 5 September ceasefire. As compared to last week, the average number of entries/exits increased overall from 10,153 to 10,532 per day for both BCPs; the average net flow went from minus 17 to plus 535 (i.e. more entries to 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 over 34 per cent 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 a number of articulated trucks and the long-distance coaches commuting between the Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation.
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) continued to observe bus connections on irregular routes. Often the buses do not state their route; instead they just have a sign on the windshield saying “Irregular”.
During the reporting period, the number of men and women in military-style dress, crossing the border in both directions, decreased from 292 to 246 at both BCPs. These people continued crossing the border individually or in groups and on foot or using different types of transport (in addition to vehicles, some use busses but also bikes and motorbikes). Approximately eighty-five per cent of crossings occurred at the Donetsk BCP. The OTs continued to observe that from time to time persons in military-style dress have been travelling by bus across the border which makes it more difficult for the OTs to observe their movement across the border. While OTs have reported a steady decrease in the past weeks of the numbers of persons in military-style clothing crossing the border, the OTs are observing an increasing number of physically fit young and middle-aged men in civilian clothing with short haircuts, who frequently travel in groups, and who often have camouflage-coloured backpacks. This mainly occurs in Donetsk BCP but these groups have also been observed in Gukovo BCP. This week, the OTs have observed a total of six such groups (five in Donetsk BCP and one in Gukovo BCP).
Furthermore, the OTs continued to observe Ukrainian vehicles, including articulated trucks, 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 OM continued to observe:
- A high number of trucks, crossing the border in both directions;
- Dumper trucks transporting coal from the Luhansk region to the Russian Federation through the BCP Gukovo;
- Cargo truck traffic at both BCPs, crossing the border in both directions.
While the majority of the trucks are registered in Luhansk region, during the reporting period the OTs also observed trucks registered in the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus that crossed the border. The OTs have observed that during the reporting week the number of trucks registered in Belarus decreased from 48 to 38, these trucks were observed crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. Separately, the OTs also observed tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions and at both BCPs. The number of tanker trucks has decreased from 37 last week to 26 this week. These trucks for the most part had the word “Propane” and “Flammable” written across the tanks in Russian language.
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 has slightly increased compared to last week. A daily average of 2,903 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 57 to plus 97 (i.e. more entries to the Russian Federation) on average per day.
During the reporting period, the OM observed a total of 39 persons in military-style clothing crossed the border at the Gukovo BCP, 20 of who left for Ukraine while 19 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 OTs observed the Russian Federation customs and border service personnel verifying that the trucks were empty while leaving the Russian Federation.
In addition to the above mentioned tanker trucks with the word “Propane” and “Flammable”, the OT continued to observe a number of orange articulated fuel trucks crossing at the Gukovo BCP.
The OTs continued to pick up on the sound of trains running on the train tracks located approximately 150 meters south-west of the BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs have reported a significant increase in number of trains as compared with the previous weeks. For this reporting period the OT heard 23 occurrences: 11 trains going to the Russian Federation and 12 trains going to Ukraine. Visual observation was not possible because of the line of trees in between the train tracks and the BCP.
On two occasions (1 July at 15:05 and 5 July at 06:50), OT heard a small number of single shots emanating from small calibre firearms coming from the west south-west direction (Ukrainian side of the border).
On two occasions (30 June at 10:15 and 3 July at 10:35), OT heard the sound of aircraft in the vicinity of the BCP; however the OT did not observe the aircraft on either occasion because it was cloudy.
During the reporting period, the OTs noted an increase in training exercises led by the Border Guard Service at the BCP.
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 7,629 entries and exits accounted for just under twenty five percent of all entries/exits in the Rostov region. The net flow changed from minus 74 to plus 437 on average per day (i.e. more entries to the Russian Federation). On 6-7 July, the net flow was unusually high (plus 3,687 crossings into the Russian Federation). Last time, such a net flow occurred was during high combat intensity in the beginning of August 2014. During the reporting week, the OT observed 207 persons in military-style clothing crossing the border at the Donetsk BCP individually and in groups; 110 persons entered the Russian Federation while 97 left for Ukraine.
On 6 July, the OT observed two males in civilian entering the BCP from the Russian Federation. Both males were wearing tactical vests and each of them carried two additional such vests. Both males crossed into Ukraine.
During the reporting week, the OTs observed three ambulances at the Donetsk BCP. Two ambulances came from the Russian Federation and one came from Ukraine. None of these ambulances appeared to be transporting people in military-style fatigues. In each instance, the ambulances returned to their respective sides after a short time.
On the 6 July, the OT observed a group of four males crossing the border from Ukraine. Two of these males were dressed in military-style clothing and two were in civilian clothing. One of the males dressed in military-style had a noticeable limp and was using crutches.
During the reporting week the OTs observed the movement of busses with children crossing the border into both directions.
On 1 July, the OT observed a Ukrainian car entering the BCP from Ukraine. This car was driven by a male dressed in military-style and wearing a Kubanka. He was accompanied by a female. This car had a sign displayed on its doors and hood saying “Комендатура Всевеликое Войско Донское” (Command of the Almighty Army of the Don). This car appeared to be escorting a bus with between 15 -17 children on board. This bus displayed a Cossack flag and also a sign stating “children on board.” Both vehicles later crossed into the Russian Federation.
 First-responders are OSCE staff or mission members deployed to another mission for a short period of time.