Last week, cargo transportation by various means of transport was activated through the uncontrolled section of the Russian-Ukrainian border in the area of the inter-State conflict in the Donbas, according to data from the weekly review of the OSCE Monitoring Mission at the Russian roadblocks in Gukovo and Donetsk for May 16-23, 2017 (the mission operates at the request of the Russian government).
During this period, the increase by 1.5 times was observed in the number of trucks crossing the border in both directions at both checkpoints. Compared to the previous week, the total number of trucks increased from 488 to 701 (225 followed through Gukovo, and 476 – through Donetsk). Of these, 415 vehicles were headed for the Russian Federation and 286 for Ukraine (QHA: it is implied to the territories of ORDLO, controlled by the pro-Russian militants).
The number of cargo minibuses that crossed the uncontrolled border section of Ukraine also almost doubled in both directions at both points. Compared with the previous week, the number of cargo minibuses increased from 151 to 236; 109 were sent to the Russian Federation and 127 to Ukraine (ORDLO). By the way, observers recorded minivans with Ukrainian registration plates, as well as Russian.
Observers also recorded a large number of trains (23 echelons) that traveled not far from the Gukovo via the uncontrolled border both to Ukraine (ORDLO) and to the Russian Federation. During the reporting week 14 trains traveled from Ukraine (ORDLO) to Russia, and 9 trains went in the opposite direction. Compared to the previous week, the number of trains increased insignificantly (22 trains were recorded that time). But if we compare with the first week of May, when 11 trains crossed the border, we will see that their number has more than doubled.
At the same time, the mission in Russian Gukovo does not provide information on what was transported in those trains and how many wagons they had, reporting that: “visual observation was impossible due to the tree line located between the railway tracks and the observation post, as well as to poor lighting conditions”.
The mission in Gukovo informs about these trains to OSCE SMM in Ukraine, but SMM observers cannot track the nature of their cargoes, since the militants prevent observers’ presence at the uncontrolled section of the Ukrainian-Russian border. In addition, the SMM mandate does not provide the inspection of the wagons contents, however observers can carry out a visual inspection of the wagons and platforms.
By the way, it should be recalled that last week the OSCE SMM observed a cargo train with 10 empty wagons on the ORDLO territory, northeastern edge of the “Luhansk People Republic” in urban-type settlement Urals-Caucasus (46 km southeast of Luhansk), which moved from the southeast to west.
Earlier QHA reported that Ukraine does not control the 400 kilometers area of the state boarder with RF in the conflict zone in Donbas.
According to the data from intelligence and Ukrainian officials, armament, military equipment, ammunition and fuel for the pro-Russian occupation corps in the Donbas are constantly supplied to the Ukraine (ORDLO) from the Russian Federation, and material values including Ukrainian factories, coal, metal, grain, etc. are exported from the occupied Ukrainian territory to the RF through this board section. According to military experts, heavy military equipment is brought to the occupied part of the Donbas from the Russian Federation by the railway transport.
Ukraine has repeatedly insisted on the control of this area at least by international observers (for example, proposed to create 6 permanent OSCE patrol bases along the border from the Ukrainian side). However, Russia and pro-Russian militants strongly oppose it. Despite the fact that the OSCE SMM mandate extends to the entire territory of Ukraine, including the ORDLO, observers have no free and constant access to the entire perimeter of the uncontrolled border.
At the 1145th meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on May 11, 2017, Permanent Representative of Ukraine in the international organizations in Vienna Igor Prokopchuk stressed that it is extremely important to seek permanent monitoring on the uncontrolled section of the Russian-Ukrainian state border. Prokopchuk underlined that the intensity of cargo traffic shows the scale of illegal trade and supplies between the Russian Federation and illegal armed formations in the Donbas that RF supports and controls.
At the last meeting of the Tripartite Contact Group in Minsk on May 24, 2017, Ukraine once again demanded that the representatives of the OSCE SMM to be admitted to the entire territory of the ORDLO, including the Russian-Ukrainian border. According to the observers themselves OSCE SMM patrols are mostly not allowed to the sites near the border.
Ukraine also proposed to create a separate working group for the restoration of the border control within the framework of the Tripartite Contact Group. However, so far it has no result, because Russia banns any decisions concerning the restoration of control over the said border segment.