One of the recurring themes in the discussion of events in Eastern Ukraine is reliable protection of the state border.We, the coordinators of Information Resistance, met with the First Deputy Chairman of the State Border Service [SBS] of Ukraine, Col.-Gen. Pavlo Shysholyn, and tried to clarify the main points related to this topic. Here’s our brief report:
We have ascertained that the leadership of the SBS rather openly discusses this problem. Which gives us hope that they will make constructive decisions in solving it.
We can’t not agree that the State Border Service isn’t a closed structure. The diseases of state and society don’t elude it.
Consequently, it can only be healed as part of a complex; it’s useless to fight corruption only among border guards while turning a blind eye to this phenomenon in other government agencies. There must be an effective system of measures of the comprehensive national character.
Meanwhile, “specific” manifestations of this problem are observed in the SBS sector. In particular, with the agency’s move to staff contractors [instead of civil servants], mostly local residents serve at respective state border posts. At the same time it’s a well-known fact: residents of settlements located in border districts “feed off the border” across-the-board. For example, if a father and brother of a border service employee have engaged in smuggling for many years, it’s difficult to expect that he [the employee] himself ultimately will be honest.
However, solving this problem requires complex measures outside the State Border Service framework.
The operative (but temporary) measure to solve this problem could be a reinforcement of border units at state border areas in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts [regions] with the border service employees deployed from other regions.
Meanwhile, the problem lies in the chronic shortage of personnel and means at the SBS. The State Border Service officials note that in past years the needs of this agency were financed on average at 25% of the needed level. This is akin to providing reliable protection to just ¼ of the entire length of our state border.
Specifics of protecting the border with Russia under current conditions
Reforms at the SBS in later years were based on principles adopted in Europe. That is, the State Border Service today is a law enforcement agency which has no serious military capabilities at its disposal.
Whereas current events in Eastern Ukraine raise the sharp question of providing, not protection, but defense of the state border with Russia. For which the SBS has simply no resources.
The solution under present conditions could be a consideration of this issues among the leadership of SBS, the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
So now, along our Eastern border our Army has built a defensive line.. It would be appropriate if separate battalions, companies or platoons (depending on the needs) were deployed near the highways and backroads in the vicinity of the state border.
By interacting with state border units, they could actively participate in preventing breakthroughs of insurgent groups and weapons convoys from the territory of Russia. That is considered a huge challenge today, given the small number of units of border guards, armed only with small arms.
In the future, the SBS see “combined” organization of the protection of the Ukrainian state border. That is, in border areas with friendly countries, the border protection according to European principles will be put in place. Meanwhile the units of the SBS on the stretch of the state border with Russia must ensure not only protection, but also the defense of the border.
Interaction with ATO forces
There is only very weak interaction with the ATO forces (as we constantly note–the headquarters of the ATO itself are observed to have the same problem in terms of interaction among the representatives of different law enforcement agencies).
There have been multiple cases where border control guards, unable to prevent breakthrough breaches of the border, turn to the ATO forces for help, although they don’t receive assistance. The main excuse–lack of available “free” resources amongst the ATO forces.
As a resolution to this problem, an immediate response group (equipped with helicopters and armored vehicles) could be created at the headquarters of the ATO. Also, they could work out (at the highest level) the algorithm of interaction between ATO forces and border control units–preferably not through Kyiv but directly.
Study of the situation at the state border with Russia
Willing to encourage our collaboration, the leadership of the State Border Service is giving the coordinators of the IR group an opportunity to study the specifics of state border protection along the stretch of Russian border, and the conditions of service of state border guards on sites.
We would like to sincerely thank the leadership of the SBS for their help and assistance; we will examine this stretch of border in the coming days.
We will report on the results of our work.
Dmitry Tymchuk, Coordinator, Information Resistance
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine