Checkpoints at the border with occupied Crimea need critical improvements – activists

Crossing checkpoints at the administrative border with occupied Crimea should to be equipped with all necessary amenities and administrative service centers should be installed nearby. The activists presented such conclusion at a press briefing at Ukrainian crisis media center based on the results of a press tour “A Road to Crimea”.

During the press tour, journalists and NGO representatives investigated the current state of the two border checkpoints – “Chaplynka” and “Kalanchak”. “We took a look at how much time does one need to cross the border checkpoint and under what conditions one does so. We experienced everything a person has to go through on the way to administrative service centers and how much it costs one to resolve one’s administrative issues”, noted Oleksandr Pavlichenko, executive director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.

The first issue investigated was the proximity of administrative service centers to the border checkpoints – the nearest one is located in Kherson city, which is 80 kilometers away from the checkpoint.  “Our first recommendation is to place an administrative service center as close to the crossing checkpoints as possible, ideally directly next to them, or at least in towns located within no more than 50 kilometers from the checkpoints,” said Oleksandr Siedov, an analyst of the Crimean Human Rights Group.

There should also be such amenities as first aid rooms, lactation rooms, toilets, drinking water available at the checkpoints. At present, most checkpoints do not have such facilities.

In order to find out what citizens themselves think of the border checkpoints, there will be questionnaires available for them to fill out at the checkpoints. “Our colleagues from the Ministry for Temporary Occupied Territories and IDPs of Ukraine have left the questionnaires at the checkpoints. The questionnaires are voluntary and anonymous, and the citizens will be able to fill them out when at the checkpoint. The border officials will be giving them out to the citizens crossing the border checkpoints for one month. Afterwards, we will present our findings based on the questionnaires,” noted Tamila Tasheva, Crimean SOS coordinator.

Last year, the projects of possible improvement of the border checkpoints including the establishment of administrative service, banking, and notary services were submitted to and approved by the relevant authorities. However, the state budget for 2018 does not allocate funds for the implementation of these projects. “Nevertheless, this year, a meeting chaired by the First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine Stepan Kubiv has been held, where it has been stated that there really is a need to finance the improvement of the crossing checkpoints,” said Serhii Mokreniuk, Head of the Crimean and Sevastopol Affairs Department of the Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and IDPs of Ukraine. Tamila Tasheva noted that with funding this project could be implemented within 3 months. “Any improvements that have been made so far were due to funding provided by regional authorities, or border service initiatives, but we believe that proper equipment of the crossing checkpoints should be a matter of immediate concern of the Ukrainian government,” said Tamila Tasheva.

“The immediate improvement of the border checkpoints with Crimea is crucial to prevent human rights violations and make it possible to record any violations should they arise,” emphasized Victoria Mozhova, a prosecutor of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.