On March 16, Ukraine imposed restrictions on crossing of the demarcation line at checkpoints with the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Citizens who do not have permanent registration are no longer allowed to go to the territory controlled by the government. Then, the occupation authorities closed the possibility of passing through the contact line. The checkpoints stopped passing people in both directions from March 22.
Thousands of people stood hostage on both sides of the demarcation line. Someone went for treatment, someone went to study, execute/obtain documents or social benefits, to see relatives, check their accommodation… All of them were quarantined in "alien" territory. Moreover, people whom the occupation authorities did not allow to enter CADLO remained to live at the checkpoints for several months.
Displaced person from Donetsk Halyna, who has been living in Mariupol for several years, was forced to return to the occupied territory before quarantine in order to care for her sick sister after the operation.
"I request absence for a month in early March, I came to my bed sister for the rehabilitation period and still cannot leave. I was fired, they had to hire another person instead. There is no work and no other income here. Probably, there are no more tear to cry. I am just waiting for the checkpoints to work normally, so that I can quickly go to Mariupol, find a new job and forget about everything as a nightmare", - she told.
There are hundreds or even thousands of similar stories. The Donbass SOS non-governmental organization, which deals with the problems of IDPs, publishes appeals from people:
"We have a wedding in Zaporizhia in June. We planned it since last year, so that it would be warm in the summer. Mom and dad live in Donetsk. Is the daughter's wedding a humanitarian reason to pass?".
"I am studying as a nurse in the Zaporizhia oblast. I came to my parents to the occupation territory for quarantine, and I have a final research paper defence on July 5. I still have to stay in self-isolation upon arrival. So, I will not defend? And what is next?"
"I live in Molodohvardiysk. I was discharged yesterday - cancer, stage 3. Please tell me - I need to get the money… on the other side, in Ukraine. I am still very weak, my neighbor is accompanying me. The "LNR" let me pass, I have the medical conclusion, everything is written there, what stage… And where can I appeal to on the other side? Can I withdraw money, get medicine and return back in one day?".
In early summer, the JFO Headquarters reported that two checkpoints began their operation on the demarcation line on June 10, - Marinka in the Donetsk oblast and Stanytsia Luhanska in the Luhansk. But the occupation authorities refused to simultaneously open checkpoints in response. Despite this, on the opening day, dozens of people came to the checkpoints from both controlled and occupied territories in the hope of crossing the demarcation line. The Ukrainian side let people in, but they were all forced to return, because the occupation authorities refused to let them in.
It was that way for several days. The "LNR" "authorities" lifted the ban on movement through the Stanytsia Luhanska checkpoint only on June 18.
The "DNR" leave the opening of checkpoints too late. Despite the Marinka checkpoint opened on the Ukrainian-controlled side, occupation authorities of CADO decided to unilaterally launch the Olenivka checkpoint from June 22. The Ukrainian authorities announced a provocation, but still opened the checkpoint on their part. It is worth noting that the occupiers from the "DNR" allowed to open the checkpoint only to leave the occupied territory for the controlled one.
Representative of CADLO in the political subgroup of the Minsk TCG Serhiy Harmash believes that the occupation authorities left the opening of checkpoints too late in order to force Ukraine to conduct direct negotiations with them.
"What prevents the other side from opening the checkpoints? Firstly, this is the reluctance to let young people go for passing the External independent testing (the session begins on June 25, - ed.) Secondly, the attempt to force Ukraine to conduct direct negotiations with them. They used all these scandals with the opening of checkpoints so that Ukraine communicates directly with them", - he said.
Indeed, the occupation authorities have repeatedly said about their readiness to open the checkpoints under the condition of direct dialogue.
"Position of the "republics" is quite simple and transparent - we are ready to open the borders even tomorrow for the release of people to the territory of Ukraine. But this issue should be discussed with representatives of Kyiv", - the so-called head of the "DNR MFA" Natalia Nikonorova said. That is, occupied Donetsk did not even hide that people became a bargaining chip for its political purposes. Although, the terrorists officially motivate their actions by the threat of coronavirus.
New passage rules
The entry/exit rules from Ukraine have not changed much. To enter the controlled territory at Ukrainian checkpoints, you need to give your consent to self-isolation within 14 days and install the Act at home mobile application (it can be installed on the phone in advance or on the spot) or agree to an observation in one of the specified medical institutions. This requirement does not apply only to those who are going to pass the EIT. In addition, all those entering the controlled territory must wear the masks and keep the distance.
According to OstroV, some people were forced to return to the occupied territory on the first day of the checkpoints' operation in the Donetsk oblast, because they either refused to undergo self-isolation, or they had no technical ability to install the Act at home mobile app (for example, because of outdated phone models).
As for the self-proclaimed "DNR" and "LNR", firstly, their requirements for crossing the demarcation line are much stricter, and secondly, they differ from each other.
Checkpoints in the "DNR": strict rules
Since June 22, occupation authorities of the "DNR" have opened the Olenivka checkpoint for their part to leave CADO for the controlled territory of Ukraine.
At the same time, they allowed to leave only under the condition of "mandatory signing of a notification of the impossibility of entry (return) to the territory of the "Donetsk People's Republic" until the epidemic situation improves".
The "authorities" of CADO are going to open the Olenivka checkpoint for entrance to the "DNR" from June 25. But subject to a number of conditions.
The occupation authorities note that they will primarily let in those who are on the list drawn up by the Interdepartmental Operational Headquarters to prevent the importation and spread of new coronavirus infection, and if one of the following reasons exists:
- for the purpose of undergoing treatment in CADO;
- for the purpose of undergoing training in CADO;
- for the purpose of carrying out labor activity in CADO;
- for the purpose of the need to care for the patient living in CADO;
- for the purpose of reunion with the family living in the CADO.
Those who have all the relevant certificates must submit an application to the occupation authorities indicating the grounds for entry and copies of supporting documents to the Healthy Movement email address: [email protected].
The application will be considered up to 10 business days. And there is no guarantee that the permission to enter CADO will be obtained. In the case of a positive decision on the issue of entry, citizens will have to undergo a two-week observation in medical institutions.
"When people enter the "DNR", they will be met at the Olenivka checkpoint and transported directly from there to one of the hospitals in Donetsk, where they will be quarantined. The places have been allocated, the staff is ready", - the so-called "Minister of Health of the DNR" Olga Dolgoshapko told.
According to her, after two weeks of being under the observation and with a negative test for coronavirus, people will be able to return home. At the same time, the "minister" made it clear that the number of citizens who are allowed to enter the occupied territory will be controlled, since the number of beds for the observation is not enough for everyone.
The first eyewitnesses of launch of the Olenivka checkpoint (to leave the "DNR") note that the occupation authorities conduct a thorough inspection, check documents, take fingerprints, take photographs, and also force people to fill out several questionnaires, one of which is consent to the impossibility of returning to the territory of CADO until the improvement of epidemiological situation. In addition, the eyewitnesses talk about long lines, slow and limited passes. Many people who wanted to leave the "DNR" on the first day of the checkpoint operation did not cross the line of demarcation, since the occupiers stopped releasing people at some point.
"The DNR has some kind of psychosis. They take fingerprints of all fingers, palms, rudely ask the city and purpose of the trip, photograph the face and in profile. In total, you will need to go to three booths during the passage, one of which is something like Ministry of State Security. You also need to fill out several questionnaires, one of which is the agreement that you will not return even if there are humanitarian corridors in the near future", - user Sasha writes.
"They let in only when there was Oplot TV crew. People start storming the checkpoint; security officials, firemen, the Ministry of Emergency situations and the police arrived. They blocked the highway with buses and automatic riflemen. Almost every car has old people, children, people with disabilities, etc., people are angry, the initiative group will regulate the line of cars tomorrow, up to blocking the route, to control the situation, as there are really a lot of those who stay overnight", - user Kateryna says.
"My mother stood in pedestrian queue at Olenivka, she felt unwell at about 12.00, an ambulance was called for her… She was given injections and advised to return home, now she is going to Horlivka. She says that people are determined to spend the night there, they are sitting right on the ground along the road, write lists with roll calls themselves… In short, that is gross. I waited in line at Novotroitske from the morning to give her a smartphone, it can be transferred from Ukraine to zero by the driver, but Act at home should be installed and activated there. The OSCE patrol drove towards Donetsk at about 14.00… I have no words, only swearing, I sit crying", - Marharyta writes.
As a result of the first days of the checkpoints' operation, "authorities" of the "DNR" advised to refrain from trying to leave the occupation zone through the Olenivka checkpoint in the near future.
Checkpoints in the "LNR": a little easier
Occupation authorities of CALO opened checkpoints on their part before their colleagues from the "DNR". Representative of CADLO of Ukraine in the political subgroup of the Minsk TCG Serhiy Harmash attributes this to the fact that the socio-economic situation in the "LNR" began to deteriorate sharply (rallies and strikes of miners confirm this), and the local "authorities" decided to slightly scale back this way.
"Pensioners living in the occupied territories have lost the opportunity to receive Ukrainian pension. Accordingly, their amount of money has sharply reduced, which affected socio-economic situation in the region. Socio-economic issue was more acute in the "LNR" due to its industrial underdevelopment, they forgot a little about their Great Russian pride there and opened checkpoints. After all, the "DNR" opened the Olenivka checkpoint too", - he said.
Indeed, in comparison with the "DNR", occupation authorities of CALO opened their checkpoints several days earlier. They immediately allowed not only exit from the uncontrolled territory, but also entry. Moreover, people entering the "LNR" are not required to undergo compulsory observation in medical institutions (unlike with the "DNR").
To enter the occupied territory of Luhansk oblast, it is required to provide data (address and phone number), upon which people will undergo self-isolation for 14 days.
Entry of people into the "LNR" is allowed to those who have registration at the place of residence in the occupied territory. It will be necessary to present the relevant document for this. For those who do not have the local registration, entry will be carried out according to the lists and in the presence of one of the following grounds:
- residence of relatives in CALO;
- for the purpose of treatment in CALO;
- for the purpose of education in CALO;
- the need to care for patients living in CALO;
- in connection with the burial of a near relative, relative or closed person living in CALO.
The occupation authorities note that the lists will be formed on the basis of applications and copies of documents confirming the reason for entry, which must be sent in advance to the [email protected] email address.
Eyewitnesses note that the crossing of the Stanytsia Luhanska checkpoint is organized in a coordinated manner and there are no large queues.
"The LNR lets in everyone. People at the Ukraine's checkpoint install the Act at home program and activate it at the checkpoint itself. Temperature measurement and masks for sure. I was checked 3 times whether the Act at home program is installed. Those who do not have a smartphone are sent to the Stanytsia hospital for 14-day observation. All the grandparents who wanted to cross the checkpoint during the day to receive the pensions or on business were returned to the LNR. They did not let anyone pass", - Mykyta writes in social networks.
"I highly recommend everyone to install the Act at home application in advance, Ukraine will not let you in without it. Well, or go to the hospital for 14 days. There was a small interview on the part of the LNR on how long I will go for when I will return and whether I know that I may not be allowed back without a registration (I have a residence permit in Luhansk, just so you know). I am going to visit my children and to receive the payments. There were no problems with crossing", - Svitlana says.
It is interesting that while checkpoints in occupied CADO were closed, some Donetsk residents tried to cross the front line through Stanytsia Luhanska. But it turned out that there were quarantine restrictions between the "republics" too, so these people failed to get, for example, to Donetsk.
Checkpoints with the occupied Donbass come out of quarantine. Despite the rather strict rules of crossing, this is an opportunity for many people to go for treatment, study and work, for medicines and products, for social benefits, which are the main source of income.
Vladyslav Bulatchik, OstroV