Cunning Ukrainian Attempts to Create Artificial Crimea Checkpoint Queues

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Translated by Ollie Richardson for Fort Russ

1st July, 2016


Representatives of the Ukrainian authorities and the media of the neighboring State familiar with the midst of the high holiday season are increasing its calls to citizens, which are often not covert, to refrain from going on vacation in Crimea. They say that trips to Crimean resorts for Ukrainians are not only unsafe, but supposedly involve a number of “difficulties” and “troubles.” If you believe these messages, the problems for Ukrainians who want to go on vacation in Crimea begin at the border with the Peninsula.

In particular, the Ukrainian side accuses the Russian border guards and customs officers of intentionally delaying the process of passage across the Russian-Ukrainian border, and of unwillingness to allow the citizens of Ukraine on the Peninsula. RIA Novosti (Crimea) visited the most popular checkpoint “Dzhankoy”, through which major traffic flows, and were personally convinced that the arguments of the Ukrainian side have no foundation. Moreover, “neighboring” guards, as it turned out, themselves deliberately delay the flow of traffic towards the border with Crimea, trying to create traffic jams already before passing the Russian customs and border posts.

Across the border – no commotion or nerves

The “Dzhankoy” checkpoint, on June 28th, at around two in the afternoon. The huge congestion that they talk about on the Ukrainian side is not nearby. About a dozen cars with Ukrainian numberplates, heading in the direction of the “Chongar” checkpoint quietly pass inspections, passengers without anxiety or excessive nervousness process necessary documents at the “windows”. At the entrance to Crimea the cars are even less, so the process of passing here is not delayed. And this despite the fact that the checkpoint only works at half of its maximum capacity – during our visit to the checkpoint there were five of the ten available lanes open.

The “Dzhankoy” checkpoint on the border of Russia and Ukraine

“The situation is generally stable,” assured the head of the “Dzhankoy” checkpoint. These days, there is a slight increase in passenger traffic at the exit from the Russian Federation: people come back to Ukraine from vacation. But we carry out the timely manoeuvre of forces and means to organize the opening of additional “windows” and lanes. In principle, we cope with the flow.”

Employees of the checkpoint quite successfully cope with the flow during the holiday season. Registering one person takes from one and a half to three minutes, four-seater car with a full load – about six minutes. The general procedure of crossing the border, including an inspection of the car and registration of the customs declaration takes about 20 minutes.

Border guards and customs officers work in an extremely challenging environment, and this is connected not only with the abnormal heat of the Peninsula. Employees of the Ukrainian “Chongar” checkpoint on a regular basis are trying to spoil the life of their Russian colleagues.

According to citizens crossing the border, on the Ukrainian side there are often very large queues of cars in the direction of Crimea, sometimes up to 200 cars. In Crimea, all the “windows” are free, it is possible to safely pass. But the Ukrainian side is deliberately holding back the cars, maybe for an hour, and then simultaneously send 40-50 cars in the direction of Crimea. 

People passing through the border are sure that this is done in order to artificially create congestion at the entrance to Crimea, to record it on photos and videos, and then accuse the Russian side of not letting the Ukrainians on the Peninsula. But this tactic of the Ukrainian neighbors, as a rule, fails: at the “Dzhankoy” checkpoint all ten lanes actively begin operations, and begin to work with additional “windows” – and the congestion dissolves before our eyes.

The Ukrainian “Chongar” checkpoint on the border with Russia

“An hour of idle time on the Ukrainian side is still normal”

We were able to observe firsthand the aforementioned “work” techniques of the employees of the “Chongar” checkpoint. Massive traffic jams on the Ukrainian checkpoint can be seen through binoculars. At the Ukrainian checkpoint are about 50 cars, but for some reason they are not allowed in the direction of the “Dzhankoy” checkpoint. The first cars on the Ukrainian side have to wait another 20 minutes. Over this time we were able to communicate with residents of border villages, which often have to cross the state border.

But here the first recent cars drive up to the “Dzhankoy” checkpoint. Ukrainians are extremely reluctant to share their impressions with journalists, many of their nerves are at the limit, presumably, because of the long waits in traffic during peak heat.

“How long did it take to pass Ukrainian checkpoint? How is the situation there?” wonders a man age 45, who came with his wife for vacation in Crimea from Pereiaslav-Khmelnytskyi.

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“Nearly normal, not very long,” he says.

“But, what does it mean “not very long”?! the wife loudly and nervously replies. “We were waiting for an hour! And you say it’s “not long”! And even in this heat…

“To stay here for an hour is still normal. It was much more longer – tells us the resident of Lugansk region Ruslan. “I go to the Crimea steadily once a week, so last time a week ago, I was waiting four hours. So this time is well passed in comparison.”

The Ukrainian “Chongar” checkpoint

“I haven’t passed the Russian border yet, let’s see how you have established it. But I had to wait very long at the Ukrainian side. There is only one lane working, it certainly complicates the situation. But, as I heard from friends who have traveled this summer across the border in Crimea, it is a normal thing for our guards,” said Sergey from Kharkov, who arrived in Crimea for vacation.

Some Ukrainians crossing the state border even noticed that the guards in “Chongar” are gloomy and harsher than on the Crimean side, and even carry Kalashnikovs already equipped with a magazine. By the way, this method of carrying a weapon (in a state of combat, wearing “cartridges”) is not practiced by the guards on the Crimean side.

The Ukrainian “Chongar” checkpoint on the border with Russia

No complaints about the staff of “Dzhankoy”

Those who have already passed both the Ukrainian and Russian positions and can compare their work are, in general, satisfied with the work of the “Dzhankoy” checkpoint. If at the “Chongar” checkpoint in the afternoon there are up to 3 “windows” (at night – one) and one lane, entrance to the Crimean side often has up to 9 working lanes, which certainly has a positive impact on travel time. This fact is pleasantly surprising.

“At the Russian checkpoint everything in general is great. I, as former military, can say it is all quick, accurate, without unnecessary red tape. No complaints. In 20 minutes I went through all the procedures,” said the pensioner from Kiev Yury Viktorovich, on vacation with his family in Yevpatoria and is returning to Ukraine.

“Today, few cars quickly passed the border. On weekend there are many more cars,” said the resident of Kerch Igor, who regularly travels to Ukraine. “In terms of the comfort of the “Dzhankoy” checkpoint, I no complaints – everything is clean, neat, toilets are working. The staff are very polite and professional.”

“I went to Crimea already several times. On the Ukrainian side I was waiting sometimes near an hour, sometimes longer. The “Dzhankoy” checkpoint in general asks no questions: in 15-20 minutes everything is done,” said the resident of Kharkov Anatoly, sharing his impressions returning home from vacation.

The “Dzhankoy” checkpoint on the border of Russia and Ukraine

According to the staff of the “Dzhankoy” checkpoint, the speed of the passing the border depends mainly on the day of the week. There is a significant increase in traffic at weekends. Therefore, the time to complete procedures also increases, but only slightly.

“Today the “Dzhankoy” checkpoint works in regular mode. There are all the conditions for a quick and comfortable passage of border and customs control. The average capacity in quantity is 30-35 vehicles per hour, an average of two minutes per vehicle. But at maximum mobilization of forces up to 50 cars can pass through the checkpoint per hour. At the moment the number of staff on duty is sufficient to control and pass one car in the interval of two to five minutes,” said the head of the Dzhankoy customs post of the Crimean customs Evgeny Tsatskin.

Two other automobile checkpoint in Crimea – “Armyansk” and “Perekop” – also work in regular mode, and there is practically no queues. During a recent visit to these checkpoints, the first Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic Mikhail Sheremet reported an increase of more than doubled the number of employees of the customs service. At the same time, the First Vice Prime Minister noted the need to establish a “green corridor” in the checkpoint for the citizens who go abroad without things, so they have an alternative.

Mikhail Sheremet had proposed before departure to set up an online camera so that citizens can see where the queue is smaller. Also on the Crimean checkpoint is a mobile facility for the scanning of transport, which in turn increases the speed of the inspection when crossing the border.

The “Dzhankoy” checkpoint on the border of Russia and Ukraine

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