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Ukraine: Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 26 March 2019

Source: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Country: Ukraine
This report is for the media and the general public. 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 21 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 the people crossing the border can be categorized as follows: Adults travelling on foot or by car with little or no l Persons in military-style o Families (often including elderly people and/or children) travelling on foot or by car with a significant amount of luggage. The average number of entries/exits increased from 9,601 to 9,935 per day at both BCPs compared to last week[1]. During the reporting period, the majority of border crossings were to the Russian Federation, with an average net flow of plus 94 per day for both BCPs. The Donetsk BCP continued to experience more traffic than the Gukovo BCP. Persons in military-style outfits During the reporting period, the number of persons in military-style outfits noted crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs was 29 this week compared to 19 last week: fourteen of them crossed into the Russian Federation, and fifteen into Ukraine (93 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 have tinted windows, and buses and minivans have drawn curtains. Families with a significant amount of luggage The OTs continued to report on families crossing the border, sometimes with elderly people and/or children, 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 three were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when eight families were observed crossing into Russian Federation and five 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. In addition to regular bus connections, the OTs continued to observe bus connections on irregular routes. Often the buses do not state their instead they have 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 (333 compared to 336 observed during the previous week). There were 186 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 147 bound for Ukraine. Among the bus connections observed by the OTs, the route “Rovenky – Kyiv” was noted. On some occasions, the OTs noticed the bus drivers removing the itinerary signs from the windshields of their buses, while some buses do not display their route at all. The majority of long-distance buses commuting between the Luhansk region and cities in the Russian Federation have Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk region. Trucks During the reporting period, the OM observed a significant increase in the overall number of trucks crossing the border in both directions and at both BCPs. Compared to the previous week, the total number of trucks went from 707 to 748 (251 at the Gukovo BCP and 497 at the Donetsk BCP); 394 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 354 crossed into Ukraine. Most of the trucks observed by the OTs had Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk however, on a daily basis, the OTs also noted trucks registered in Belarus, the Russian Federation and some 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 decreased to 41 (compared to 57 during the previous reporting period). 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 undergo systematic inspection by Russian Federation officials, which may 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 slightly decreased from 205 to 194: of the total number of trucks scanned, 130 trucks (67 per cent) were bound for U the remaining 64 trucks (33 per cent) crossed into the Russian Federation. Minivans The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans[2] crossing the border in both directions at both BCPs. The OTs observed minivans predominantly with Ukrainian licence plates issued in the Luhansk however, the OTs also frequently saw minivans registered in the Russian Federation. Compared to the previous week, the number of cargo minivans decreased from 155 to 132 ve 68 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 64 into Ukraine. Trains The OTs continued to pick up the sound of trains running on the railway tracks located approximately 150 metres south-west of the Gukovo BCP. During the reporting week, the OTs heard trains on 28 occasions, compared to 17 last the OTs assessed that seventeen trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and eleven to Ukraine (more details are provided on the sections “trends and figures at a glance”). The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine was regularly informed about the trains bound for Ukraine. 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. Cars with Polish and Georgian licence plates were also observed. On 19 March at 09:49, three ambulances arrived at the Donetsk BCP from Ukraine, underwent border control procedures for around 10 minutes and left towards the Russian Federation at 10:00. One of the ambulances bore the inscription in Russian “Children intensive care” (Детская Реанимация) on the side of the vehicle. The flashing lights on the ambulances were turned off. On the same day at 19:17, an ambulance with the same inscription as above arrived at the BCP from the Russian Federation. The vehicle underwent border control procedures and left towards Ukraine. Because of the high traffic during the shift, the OT was unable to notice any other details. The flashing lights were turned off. On 20 March at 10:31, a minivan with the inscription “Police” with a crew of three people arrived at Donetsk BCP from the Russian Federation. The vehicle drove next to the main building and was partially visible to the OT. A fourth person, an adult male, was taken into the rear part of the van, alongside a crew member. At 10:43, the vehicle returned towards the Russian Federation. For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 19 February 2019 to 26 March 2019, please see the attachment here. [1] Based on data received from the Regional Representation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation [2] 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).


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