Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy, Russian Federation. The Observer Mission (OM) continues to operate 24/7 at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs). The overall number of border crossings by persons decreased at both BCPs compared to the previous week.
The OM is currently operating with 22 permanent international staff members, including the Chief Observer (CO). The Mission is supported administratively by a staff member and the Chief of Fund Administration based in Vienna.
OBSERVATIONS AT THE BORDER CROSSING POINTS
Persons crossing the border
The profile of persons crossing the border can be categorized as follows:
- Adults travelling on foot or by car with little or no luggage;
- Persons in military-style outfits;
- Families (often including elderly persons and/or children) travelling on foot or by car with a significant amount of luggage.
The average number of entries/exits decreased from 9,853 to 9,164 per day at both BCPs compared to last week. During the reporting period, the majority of border crossings were to the Russian Federation, with an average net flow of 123 per day for both BCPs.
The Donetsk BCP continued to experience much more traffic than the Gukovo BCP.
Persons in military-style outfits
During the reporting period, the number of persons in military-style outfits crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs was eight, compared to 18 last week, seven of them crossed into the Russian Federation, and one into Ukraine (88 per cent of this category’s crossings occurred at the Donetsk BCP). They continued to cross the border individually or in groups. Most individuals crossed on foot, however, some made use of private vehicles, buses or minivans, making it more difficult for the observer teams (OTs) to observe their movement across the border, especially since some of the private vehicles had tinted windows, and buses and minivans had drawn curtains.
Families with a significant amount of luggage
The OTs continued to report on families, sometimes with elderly persons and/or children, crossing the border at both BCPs with a significant amount of luggage, or travelling in heavily loaded cars. During this reporting week, no families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and one family was observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when two families were observed crossing to the Russian Federation and three families into Ukraine.
Regular local and long-distance bus connections continued to operate between Ukraine (mostly from/to the Luhansk region) and the Russian Federation. In addition to regular bus connections, the OTs continued to observe bus connections on irregular routes. Often the buses did not state their route; instead they had a sign on the windshield stating “irregular”.
During the reporting period, the OTs observed a slight decrease in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (439 compared to 452 observed during the previous week). There were 230 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 209 bound for Ukraine.
On some occasions, the OTs noticed the bus drivers removing the itinerary signs from the windshields of their buses, while some buses did not display their route at all. The majority of long-distance buses commuting between the Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region and “LPR” plates.
During the reporting period, the OTs observed a decrease in the overall number of trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (608 compared to 716 during the previous reporting week); 266 at the Gukovo BCP and 342 at the Donetsk BCP, 295 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 313 crossed into Ukraine. Most of the trucks observed by the OTs had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region; however, on a daily basis, the OTs also noted trucks registered in Belarus, the Russian Federation and with “LPR” plates.
The OTs also continued to observe tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. During the reporting week, the number of tanker trucks slightly decreased from 34 to 33. These trucks were observed crossing the border at both BCPs. The trucks had the words “Propane” and “Flammable” written across the tanks in either Russian or Ukrainian. The majority of tanker trucks had hazard signs, indicating that they were transporting propane or a mix of propane and butane.
All trucks underwent systematic inspection by Russian Federation officials, which could include an X-ray check. Due to the unfavourable observation position at the Gukovo BCP, the OTs continued to be unable to observe any X-ray checks.
Compared to the previous week, the total number of X-ray checks at the Donetsk BCP decreased from 109 to 85. Of the total number of trucks scanned, 70 trucks (82 per cent) were bound for Ukraine: the remaining 15 trucks (18 per cent) crossed into the Russian Federation)
The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. The OTs observed minivans predominantly with Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region; however, the OTs also frequently saw minivans registered in the Russian Federation. Compared to the previous week, the number of cargo minivans slightly increased from 97 to 98 vehicles; 53 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 45 into Ukraine.
The OTs continued to pick up the sound of trains on the railway tracks located approximately 150m south-west of the Gukovo BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on six occasions; the OTs assessed that three trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and three to Ukraine (more details are provided in the sections “trends and figures at a glance” below).
Visual observation was not possible because of the line of trees located between the train tracks and the BCP.
The majority of vehicles crossing the border had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region, or Russian Federation licence plates. A significant number of vehicles with “LPR” plates were also observed crossing the border in both directions on a daily basis.
The OTs also observed cars with license plates from Belarus, Georgia, and Lithuania; cars with “DPR” plates were also noted.
On 8 February at 09:44, a white minivan with Russian Federation license plates was observed entering the Donetsk BCP from the Russian Federation side. The van had the sign "200" on its windshield. Except for the driver, no other passengers were observed on board. The van underwent border procedures and crossed into Ukraine at 10:16.
On 8 February at 23:08, a police van with Russian Federation license plates entered the Donetsk BCP area from the Russian Federation and parked behind the main building. At 23:14, the same van left the BCP to the Russian Federation with two people on board, including the driver.
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