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Tuesday 24.10.2017 | Name days: Renāte, Modrīte, Mudrīte
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Irking Russia: Lithuania is also to start building its fence with Russia

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Linas Jegelevicius for the BNN

What many believed it was a remote possibility due to the complexity and the costs, now has become reality – Lithuania’s State Border Guard Service announced this week it has signed a contract with a contractor to erect a 44,6-km fence on the Lithuanian border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Contract has been inked

Under 1.3335 million euro deal signed between the service and JSC Gintreja, a Vilkaviskis-based company, construction of the fence on the44.6-km stretch will commence shortly.

Gintreja was picked out of 27 companies that took part in the public procurement tender and the money to it will be provided from the state budget, according to the reports.

The company is expected to build a two-meter segment fence with additional equipment in a few stretches of total length of 44.6 km along the border with Kaliningrad. The fence will be built in stretches of the crossing of the Lithuanian, Polish and Russian state borders at Vistytis and in Sakiai and Vilkaviskis districts to the River Nemunas.

The State Border Guard Service has reportedly already installed technical surveillance systems along the 109-km border along the Nemunas, while the new fence will be built in territories where the border runs on land.

The construction of the fence should be completed by December 20 of this year.

Three main reasons for fence

Eimutis Misiūnas, the Lithuanian Interior minister, explained the necessity of the fence with three main factors.

«First, it will help tackle smuggling, second – breaches of the state border. We all remember that, two years ago, Estonia accused Russia of abducting an intelligence officer at gunpoint on the border. And last, but not least – geopolitical tension. Our main goal is to have fully controlled and monitored state borders with Russia and Belarus in 2020,» Misiūnas told BNN.

According to him, the fence will be with «some adjustments» which make it hard to climb it over.

To some ironically, the news about Lithuania’s readiness to start the construction came along with the front-page news on the visit to Vilnius of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

No promises on missile defense system from Mattis

Although Lithuania has long asked the NATO allies, including the United States of America, to provide it a missile shield, none of the countries have pledged to it.

The US Secretary of Defense did not commit to Lithuania in that regard, too. He reiterated that the US was ready to deploy defense systems in the Baltic States to deter Russia, however, has given no comment on the possibility to bring long-range defense systems Patriot.

«We will deploy only defensive systems to make certain that sovereignty is respected,» Mattis said at a news conference in Lithuania after meeting with the country’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

Lithuanian defense officials maintain that NATO ought to step up air defense systems in the Baltic States during the large-scale Russian and Belarusian military exercise Zapad this fall.

Lithuania’s Armed Forces currently only have short-range aircraft defense systems and has decided to purchase Norwegian medium-range systems NASAMS.

Putin is belligerent

«Indeed, a NATO long-range defense system installed to protect Lithuania and the entire Baltics is what we need most, defense-wise. However, building a fence along the Russian border also make a sense to me for a single reason: Putin (Russian president Vladimir Putin) cannot live without a war. He won’t stop looking for nagging until his last day in the Kremlin. Only bellicosity guarantees his stay in power,» Vytautas Dumbliauskas, a political analyst, told BNN.

«I like the estimation of a Russian economist that Putin regime can last another 10 years and only then it may show signs of tapering off. So, again, all efforts to ramp up our security are logic and deserve praise,» Dumbliauskas noted.

According to him, Lithuania has to be wary as Russia can try out Lithuanian defense in different ways.

«For example, sending in a bunch of camouflaged troops, which Russia did in Ukraine, or dress them in the garments of Lithuanian Army. All is possible, so, again, the fence will do just good, not harm,» the analyst underscored.

Estonia will proceed with fence soon

Lithuania is not a Baltic stand-out in the endeavour to more tightly secure its border – Estonia has also reported its will to erect a fence with Russia along the Narva River and Latvia has already completed construction of the fence on its 23-kilometer border stretch with Russia.

Approached by BNN, Janek Magi, head of the Border Guard Policy Department at the Interior Ministry of Estonia, said: «Our aim is to build the most modern state border to prevent and detect illegal border crossings and to cover it with technical surveillance. Just to clarify – we are not going to build a wall but a secure combination of physical and technical solutions.»
According to him, Estonia is going to install 555 land border marks and 144 border marks along the Narva River.

«We will also install floating border buoys on the Narva River and on the lakes Peipsi, Lämmi and Pihkva.

With that, we will have an overview and the real-time possibility to gather information regarding all kind of border incidents,» he said.

The estimated cost for the project is approximately 74 million euro.

«We expect most of the work to be done by the year 2018 and the border should be ultimately ready by 2019,» Magi underlined.

As many as 238 illegal border crossers were detained in Estonia in 2016 (in 2015 – 292) and 60 (in 2015 – 66) of them were connected to illegal immigration. Most illegal border crossings are done by accident or in connection with cigarette smuggling, according to the official.

Latvia has completed first stretch of fence

Meanwhile, Latvia has reportedly already built the first 23-kilometer stretch of a fence on the border with Russia, which is one of the measures intended to keep out illegal immigrants, says the Latvian State Border Guard.

The first section of the fence has been constructed in the territory in eastern Latvia guarded by the Ludza regional branch of the State Border Guard.

In the coming years, several sections of a 2.7-meter-high fence topped with barbed wire will be built on the border with Russia, and their total length will be 92 kilometres. Altogether 193 kilometres of the 276-kilometer-long Latvian-Russian border might be protected by the fence in the future. The remaining stretches of the border have natural obstructions like swamps that hinder illegal border crossing.

The total cost of reinforcing the border with Russia is estimated at 17 million euro, and the work is to be completed by 2019.

Ref: 020/111.111.111.4575


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