How Safe Are Russian Borders?

2005-02-25 10:59


MOSCOW (RIA Novosti commentator Vyacheslav Lashkul) – The Federal
Frontier Service was terminated a year ago, with its functions transferred
to the FSB. RIA asked Colonel General Vladimir Pronichev, first deputy
director of the FSB responsible for the border guards, about the reason for

Vladimir Pronichev: It was not just a change of name. Our tasks
include the struggle against transborder crime, primarily drugs, and
international terrorism, which calls for security operations rather than
army methods. Border guards have become an integral part of the FSB, which
allows us to create joint databanks and collect and process information
about persons, above all terrorists, who pose a threat to the state.

Vyacheslav Lashkul: How many stations guard the border?

V.P.: Over 11,000 border patrols, dozens of coast guard ships, boats,
aircraft and helicopters guard Russia’s borders every day. Of the more than
61,000km of the state border, about 14,500km is marked on dry land.

V.L.: The state border commission has approved a concept of a new
system of protecting and defending the border. What are its new elements:

V.P.: It was created by researchers with the assistance of modern
industries and technologies. The key task now is to use modern equipment,
promptly transfer information and take adequate measures to guard the

V.L.: Does this mean that border units will not guard the whole length
of the border?

V.P.: The old and tested methods will be used at the endangered parts
of the border, mostly in the North Caucasus. The Russian-Kazakh border will
be the responsibility of special representatives and their teams, who will
ensure close contacts with the local population. They will also monitor the
situation on the border, so that when they get information that a certain
(smuggled) cargo is moving towards the border, they would dispatch a unit
there to detail the violators.

Our border guards will be equipped with modern technologies, which are
being used to monitor the border on the Black and Azov seas. These
technologies entail permanent monitoring of the situation (in time and
space) with the help of modern surveillance equipment. When an unidentified
vessel enters our territorial waters, the signal is transmitted to the
control center, which orders the aircraft or coast guards to detain the
trespasser. We are using the same principle on land.

We plan to build, jointly with the Communications Ministry, a digital
transmission line in the North Caucasus. The new digital system will be
complemented with other technologies; we are working to create special
systems for this. The projects have been approved and factories are
implementing them.

V.L.: Will the ordinary recruits have the intelligence and skills to
use these technologies?

V.P.: In principle, we plan to abolish conscription to the border
guards. There are no conscripts on some parts of the western and
Russia-Kazakhstan borders, and we will not send conscripts to Kamchatka. The
crucial task now is to man stations on the northwestern borders with
contract servicemen, who will rely on intelligence projects and contacts
with the local population.

We also hope to revive the family tradition, when the border will be
protected by dynasties of guards. We have examples of this positive

Border units will be formed comprehensively, so that career officers
will preclude attempts to turn the border into somebody’s gold mine.
Contract service will become the priority form; we plan to recruit only
contract servicemen to border units by 2010.

V.L.: Will you recruit also citizens from the CIS countries?

V.P.: We have not pondered the idea yet. The only units employing CIS
citizens are the border groups deployed in Armenia and Tajikistan, where
citizens of these two countries can serve. Over 40,000 Tajiks have served in
the Russian border units in Tajikistan, and over 80% of personnel of
thecurrent border department are local servicemen.

Tajikistan has expressed readiness to protect the border without
Russians, which does not mean that they will leave the republic. But the
form of our cooperation will change. We want the Tajik border to be tightly
sealed, as the drug barons are acting increasingly brazenly in the region,
often with the use of weapons. In fact, we are fighting a real war against
the international drug Mafia there. In the past two years, Russian border
patrols held nearly 200 battles. Last year, they detained over 5 tons of
drugs on the Tajik-Afghan border.

Now that the North Caucasian border is being reinforced, we will
redirect our attention to the Russo-Kazakh border. We must erect an
insurmountable barrier to drugs, illegal migration and smuggling there.

We are finishing the elaboration of a target federal program of border
development, which stipulates the construction of border settlements, above
all on the new, undeveloped parts of the border in 2005-2010.