Thursday 4 March 2021
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reliefweb - 9 days ago

Ukraine: Weekly Update from the OSCE Observer Mission at Russian Checkpoints Gukovo and Donetsk based on information as of 23 February 2021

Country: Ukraine Source: Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe SUMMARY Kamensk-Shakhtinskiy, Russian Federation. The Observer Mission (OM) continues to operate 24/7 at both Border Crossing Points (BCPs). OPERATIONAL REMARKS The OM is currently operating with 22 permanent international Mission members, including the Chief Observer (CO). 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: 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 data on the average number of entries/exits from both border crossing points (BCPs) for the reporting period is not available, since the OM did not receive the relevant figures from the competent Authorities, due to the public holidays in the Host Country. Responding to the COVID-19 situation, the host country has closed its borders for the majority of foreigners starting from 18 March 2020. 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 2020, 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 18, compared to seven last nine persons crossed into the Russian Federation while another nine persons crossed into Ukraine. These individuals 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, three families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation while 12 families were observed crossing into Ukraine, compared to the previous reporting period when 11 families were observed crossing into the Russian Federation and nine families were observed crossing 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 (301 compared to 278 observed during the previous week). There were 148 buses bound for the Russian Federation and 153 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 an increase in the overall number of trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (745 compared to 697 during the previous reporting week); 363 at the Gukovo BCP and 382 at the Donetsk BCP, 336 of these trucks crossed into the Russian Federation and 409 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 Armenia, Belarus, Lithuania, the Russian Federation 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 significant increase in the overall number of tanker trucks crossing the border at both BCPs (38 compared to 20 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. Compared to the previous week, the total number of X-ray checks at the Donetsk BCP significantly increased from 91 to 153. Of the total number of trucks scanned, 152 trucks (99 per cent) were bound for Ukraine, the remaining one truck (one per cent) crossed into the Russian Federation. Minivans The OM continued to observe passenger and cargo minivans[1] 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 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 (143 compared to 147 observed during the previous week); 77 crossed into the Russian Federation and another 66 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 22 occ the OTs assessed that 12 trains were travelling to the Russian Federation and the remaining ten 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 vehicles with Belarusian, Georgian, Lithuanian licence plates and vehicles with DPR plates. On 16 February at 11:05, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a green helicopter type Mi8/Mi17 flying from the north-east in a south-easterly direction. The helicopter remained inside the airspace of the Russian Federation the entire time it was visible to the OT. On 16 February at 17:35, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a black minivan with a sign Funeral Services (in Russian) entering the BCP from the Russian Federation. After undergoing custom control procedures, the vehicle left for Ukraine. The OT was unable to notice any other details from its position. On 17 February at 15:25, the OT at the Donetsk BCP observed a Russian Federation police vehicle entering the BCP from the Russian Federation and parking next to the main building. At 15:54 the police vehicle drove back towards the Russian Federation. The OT was unable to notice any other details from its position. For trends and figures at a glance covering the period from 19 January 2021 to 23 February 2021, please see the attachment here. [1]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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