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Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 22 September 2020

Pays
Ukraine
Sources
OSCE
Date de publication
Origine
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SUMMARY

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 increased at both BCPs compared to the previous week.

OPERATIONAL REMARKS

The OM is currently operating with 22 permanent international Mission members, including the Chief Observer (CO) and one first responder[1]. The Mission is supported administratively by a staff member and the Chief of Fund Administration based in Vienna.

Update on COVID-19 measures

Activities have been impacted by COVID-19 and measures undertaken by the OM to ensure the safety and duty of care of its Mission members and compliance with measures set by the host country authorities. The Mission is continuing to keep the situation under review, in close contact with the OSCE Secretariat and the Chairmanship. Following the host country recommendations, the observers are adhering to social distancing. Due to the preventive measures taken by the central and regional authorities, the OM is faced with certain difficulties, but is still able to continue to fulfil its mandate without any limitations in its observation and reporting activities.

OBSERVATIONS AT THE BORDER CROSSING POINTS

Persons crossing the border

The profile of persons crossing the border can be categorized as follows:

  1. Adults travelling on foot or by car with little or no luggage.
  2. Persons in military-style outfits.
  3. 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 slightly increased from 10,017 to 10,270 per day at both BCPs compared to last week[2].

During the reporting period, the majority of border crossings were to Ukraine, with an average net flow of 44 per day for both BCPs. The Donetsk BCP continued to experience much more traffic than the Gukovo BCP.

Responding to the COVID-19 situation, the host country has closed its borders for the majority of foreigners starting from 18 March. Among the exceptions of persons allowed to cross the border (which entered into force on 19 March), are Ukrainian citizens and stateless persons holding passports or identification documents proving permanent residence in certain areas of Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine. In addition, reportedly, due to the threat of the spread of COVID-19, starting from 10 April, the organized passenger transport commuting between the non-government-controlled areas of Luhansk region of Ukraine and the Russian Federation was temporarily suspended and restored from 25 June.

Persons in military-style outfits

During the reporting period, the number of persons in military style outfits crossing the border was one, compared to eight last week. No persons crossed into the Russian Federation while one crossed into Ukraine. This individual crossed the border on foot.

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, five families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation while another three families were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when two families were observed crossing to the Russian Federation, while another three families crossed into Ukraine.

Bus connections

Regular local and long-distance bus connections continued to operate between Ukraine (mostly from/to the Luhansk region) and the Russian Federation. During the reporting period, the OTs observed an increase in the overall number of buses crossing the border at both BCPs (364 compared to 328 observed during the previous week). There were 191 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 173 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.

Trucks

During the reporting period, the OTs observed a slight increase in the overall number of trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (988 compared to 957 during the previous reporting week); 559 at the Gukovo BCP and 429 at the Donetsk BCP, 535 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 453 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 the Russian Federation, Belarus, Ukraine and trucks with "LPR" plates.

The OTs also continued to observe tanker trucks crossing the border in both directions. During the reporting period, the OTs observed a slight increase in the overall number of tanker trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (52 compared to 45 during the previous reporting week). 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 the 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.

During the reporting period, the X-ray vehicle at the Donetsk BCP was not operating due to the ongoing construction activities; consequently, no X-ray checks were observed by the OTs.

Minivans

The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans[3] 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 saw minivans registered in the Russian Federation. During the reporting period, the OTs observed just a slight decrease in the overall number of minivans crossing the border at both BCPs (160 compared to 161 observed during the previous week); 88 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 72 into Ukraine.

Trains

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 31 occasions; the OTs assessed that 18 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and the remaining 13 trains were travelling 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.

Other observations

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 licence plates registered in Georgia.

During the reporting week, the OTs at the Donetsk BCP observed police vehicles on four separate occasions:

On 15 September at 12:40, the OT observed a police minivan with Russian Federation licence plates with three individuals on board, entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking next to the main building. At 13:48, the police vehicle drove back to the Russian Federation.

The same day at 17:18, the OT observed another police minivan with Russian Federation licence plates with three individuals on board, entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking next to the main building. At 17:52, the police vehicle drove back to the Russian Federation.

On 18 September at 18:45, the OT observed a police vehicle with Russian Federation licence plates, entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking behind the main building. At 18:53, the police car drove back with three individuals on board including the driver. The OT was unable to notice any other details from its position.

On 21 September at 16:52, the OT observed a police vehicle with Russian Federation licence plates, accompanied by a green SUV, type UAZ, with an inscription "Russian Border Guards" (in Russian) on signboards and with flashing lights on, entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking next to the main building. At 16:55, both vehicles drove back to the Russian Federation. The OT was unable to notice any other details from its position.

During the reporting week, the OTs at the Donetsk BCP observed a group of brand-new vehicles on two separate occasions:

On 15 September at 13:13, the OT observed a group of 16 brand-new ambulances, type UAZ, with no licence plates entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking at the customs control area. The vehicles bore the inscription "Urgent Medical Help" (in Russian) on signboards and a sign "Red Cross" at the front and the rear sides. The OT noticed only a driver inside each vehicle. All the vehicles underwent customs and border control procedures and left for Ukraine at 16:15.

On 16 September at 13:00, the OT observed a group of 13 brand-new vehicles type FORD TRANSIT (seven ambulances and six white minivans) with no licence plates, entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking at the customs control area. The ambulances bore the inscription "Urgent Medical Help" (in Russian) on signboards. All vehicles underwent customs and border control procedures and left for Ukraine at 16:45. The OT noticed only a driver inside each vehicle.

On 16 September at 11:07, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed an ambulance with Russian Federation licence plates entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking in front of the main building. The OT noticed a driver and three female medics on board. The ambulance drove back to the Russian Federation with an elderly female patient at 11:23. The OT was unable to notice any other details from its position.

On 18 September at 09:36, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a white funeral minivan bearing an inscription "Ritual Services" (in Russian) on boards, entering the BCP from Ukraine. After undergoing border control procedures, the vehicle left the BCP towards the Russian Federation. The OT was unable to observe any other details from its position.

For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 18 August to 22 September 2020, please see the attachment here

[1] First responders are OSCE staff or Mission members deployed for a short period of time.

[2]Based on data received from the Regional Representation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

[3] Cargo minivans: light commercial vehicles with a maximum authorized mass of more than 3.5 t and not more than 7.5 t; with or without a trailer with a maximum mass of less than 750 kg (small cargo vehicles which correspond to driving licence C1).