UPDATE June 18: OSCE Imagery shows the Russian Army Crossing into Ukraine

Hello: With the OSCE having now published June 4th, 2020 imagery showing Russian military vehicles crossing the Ukrainian border at Cheremshyne, I’ve updated this post & added their images. In addition, OSCE also published the below June 5th image. This shows a convoy shortly after midnight, entering a compound in the city of Luhansk.

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This convoy seen above would appear to be the one which crossed into Ukraine at Cheremshyne. Presumably the OSCE UAV followed the convoy for around 50km as it drove from the border to the city. The compound has been used by Russia-led forces since 2015. It’s notable for having military transport trucks in it, indicating it’s probably a supply depot. Coordinates 48°32’22.74″N 39°19’39.27″E

compound 1In red, I’ve highlighted the part of the compound seen in the above OSCE image.

compound 2Location of compound in Luhansk city. For more info on this compound, please check out this post by the good people at Inform Napalm.

Below is a video of mine looking at OSCE footage & images of Russian military convoys entering/exiting Ukraine via the Ukrainian village of Manych in 2018.

My Original Post.
With the OSCE observing more Russian military columns crossing the Ukrainian border, this post looks at one of the favoured illegal crossing points into Ukraine’s Luhansk Oblast (province).

The Russian logistical challenge.
Occupying much of eastern Ukraine for six years takes a lot of logistical effort. Russia can’t build massive ammo dumps in east Ukraine as everyone would rightly point the finger and say – look Russia’s built massive ammo dumps in eastern Ukraine. So instead, a cat and mouse game is played out where the Russian army tries to avoid prying eyes and keeps sneaking ammunition, troops, hardware and supplies into Ukraine.

These late-night escapades involve Russian military convoys travelling back and forth across the Ukrainian border. Doing so is relatively easy. Since Sept 2014, Russia via its puppet Donetsk & Luhansk republics has controlled 409km of Ukraine’s eastern border. They control ten official Ukrainian crossings and numerous unofficial ones. These unauthorised crossing points consist of previously blocked Ukrainian border roads, which the Russian army reopened in 2014 & some new illegal crossings created by the Russian military. It’s these remote, unofficial crossings which the Russian army uses to send military supplies into Ukraine.

Illegal border crossing point into Ukraine’s Luhansk region.
South of the Russian border town of Donetsk, there is around 25km of remote borderland, populated by the two small Ukrainian villages of Cheremshyne & Korolivka. Located 3.5km from the Russian border, our focus is on Cheremshyne. Satellite coordinates: 48° 9’35.00″N 39°54’13.58″E

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Not for the first time, the OSCE has published details of numerous military vehicles seen near and crossing the border at Cheremshyne. There is no official border crossing here. As previous OSCE reports have detailed, these border crossing convoys are escorted by sports utility vehicles, the occupants of which are undoubtedly Russian Special Forces.

One-in, one-out.
OSCE UAV film footage (see above video) taken at Manych and the below OSCE image, detail how the Russian military takes the opportunity to send both vehicles into Ukraine and also back into Russia at the same time.

In the below case, 16 military trucks and escourt vehicles were presumably seen waiting for clearance to leave Ukraine. OSCE image states this convoy crossed into Russia by 22.32 and 5 military trucks were filmed at 22.17 “after entering Ukraine” from Russia.

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June 4th OSCE UAV image. Filmed from inside Ukraine, in the far distance a convoy of stationary military vehicles are seen waiting at the illegal border crossing near Cheremshyne. This crossing was constructed by the Russian military in 2015. Another convoy of 5 military vehicles can be seen driving west towards Cheremshyne “after entering Ukraine.”

crossing 1A 3D Google Earth satellite image shows the location more clearly. The dirt road used by the Russian military is well established and shows frequent vehicle use.

crossing 2Wider Google Earth view of the crossing. Just 30km away from it inside Russia, there’s a large Russian army base in the Russian town of Kamensk Shakhtinsky.

Published June 6th 2020, the OSCE report reads:
On 4–5 June, between 20:40 and 00:24, an SMM long-range UAV spotted a convoy of trucks entering Ukraine and another convoy exiting Ukraine on a dirt road near Cheremshyne (non-government-controlled, 59km south-east of Luhansk), near the border with the Russian Federation where there are no border crossing facilities.

At 20:40 on 4 June, an SMM long-range UAV spotted at least 12 probable military-type
trucks and an escort light utility vehicle in a stationary convoy pointing east on a dirt track, and five persons walking in between the trucks, about 3.5km east of Cheremshyne, about 120m west of the border with the Russian Federation, in an area where there are no border crossing facilities.

At 20:51, in a tree line about 1.4km west of the stationary convoy, the UAV spotted three
probable military-type vehicles and another vehicle approaching this stationary convoy on the same dirt track from a westerly direction. This group of vehicles joined the stationary convoy described above, making a total of at least 16 vehicles and an escort. Between 20:52 and 21:22, two military-type trucks left this convoy driving eastwards, and exited Ukraine, leaving at least 14 military-type trucks, vehicles and escort remaining stationary.

Between 21:26 and 21:58, the UAV spotted two light utility vehicles entering Ukraine and
approaching the stationary convoy of at least 14 trucks, vehicles and escort; one stopped
near the convoy, while the other proceeded westwards on the above-mentioned dirt track to about 2km east of Cheremshyne. End of report.

new stats 128The village of Cheremshyne is seen on the top left and 3.5km east on the far right (red square), is an illegal border crossing into Russia. Google Earth shows this crossing and another one just below it having been established sometime after April 2015. Prior to this, the Russian military used an 2014 illegal crossing 5km further north at Korolivka.

Map 2A Sept 2018 close-up of the upper (yellow circle) and lower (red circle) crossing points.
The yellow line marks the official border which follows the course of the Verkhnje Provallya River in the trees on the left. Russia’s on the right and Ukraine the left.

The grey coloured tracks next to the circles mark where the Russian military has put down ballast to make their two illegal crossings easier to use. Google Earth shows this resurfacing work was completed by March 2017. The upper crossing is the one referenced in the OSCE report.

Map 3The same area seen in May 2014: No bridge or crossings over the river.

Map 6By June 2016 a bridge (red circle) has been built over the river at the lower crossing. By March 2017, bridge has disappeared and this crossing looks to have been abandoned.

Map 7The upper crossing was established sometime after April 2015, with the above satellite image from August 2015. Initially earth (next to yellow circle) looks to have been used to create a bridge across the river.

Map 4Viewed from the Russian side, this Sept 2018, 3D Google Earth image gives us a better look at the two crossings. We see the border barrier, earth bank (green circle) has been cut through, with a well used vehicle track leading to the upper crossing point (yellow circle). On the left (red circle) is the lower crossing point.

Map 5A close-up of the upper crossing point.

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