The official European monitoring mission in eastern Ukraine has for the first time posted video footage showing convoys of trucks crossing from Russia into Ukraine and from Ukraine into Russia through a back road that has no border guards.
"The Mission’s long-range unmanned aerial vehicle spotted convoys of trucks entering and exiting Ukraine via a dirt track where there are no border crossing facilities in a nongovernment-controlled area of Donetsk region in the middle of the night," the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe's Special Monitoring Mission for Ukraine said in a report that for the first time mentions the convoys seen in a YouTube video that the mission later posted on August 10.
The video, filmed by a drone, was mentioned in a routine report documenting cease-fire violations in the conflict between Russia-backed separatists and Kyiv forces in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 10,300 people since 2014.
The video is potentially important because it may document claims made repeatedly by Kyiv and its allies in the West but denied repeatedly by Russia -- that Moscow is supplying the separatists with materials -- such as weapons, troops, and ammunition -- needed to wage the conflict against the government.
Russia has said it provides food, medicine, and other necessities to needy people living in the eastern Ukraine conflict zone, but has insisted that it never sent weapons and that Russian natives found fighting in Ukraine have been "volunteers" contributing their efforts to the separatist cause without backing from the government.
The OSCE report describes the trucks travelling between Russia and Ukraine in the video as "canvas-covered six-wheeled cargo trucks" and said they turned off the main highway about 3.5 kilometers from Ukraine's border with Russia to take the unguarded dirt road between the countries.
The convoys in the video were seen on the night of August 8, the report said, with one convoy of trucks entering Ukraine from Russia on the dirt road and passing the convoy that was leaving Ukraine and entering Russia while they were on the paved road between the countries.
The monitoring organization said that "each of the convoys separately stopped for about three minutes next to an off-road vehicle that was parked in a field along the...dirt track, 1.7 kilometers from the border, and again next to two trucks parked at the intersection of the dirt track and the paved road."
"At both spots, the occupants of the parked vehicles...can be seen interacting with the drivers of each convoy’s lead vehicle. The convoy seen heading westward into Ukraine was observed driving west and finally parking at the southern outskirts of Khrustalnyi," a town in eastern Ukraine 56 kilometers southwest of Luhansk that is not controlled by the government," the monitor said.