Aleksandr Lukashenko attends extended session of State Border Committee

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The situation with the border agency of Belarus leaves much to be desired, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said on 27 January at an extended session of the State Border Committee to discuss border protection.

While opening the session the President noted that there was no emergency. “However, the situation with the border agency is not what I, the President, would like it to be,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

“It seems we understand what the tasks are and how they should be addressed, and we have people to deal with them. We had discussed it with the last two chiefs of the border agency. Yet there are many tasks that are not addressed now,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state explained why Colonel General Leonid Maltsev was appointed Chairman of the State Border Committee. “Some people say that the appointment was due to Lukashenko’s dissatisfaction with Maltsev. But it is not true,” the President said. Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that some time ago he had a man-to-man talk with heads of law enforcement and a number of other officials. “They were convened to discuss another incidence on the border. “It was all too much. I told Leonid Maltsev back than: if another incident like that happens, either you or I will have to go there to deal with it. He said: it is not a thing the President should do, I will go. After another incident occurred, Leonid Maltsev kept his promise. That was the reason why Colonel General Leonid Maltsev took charge of the border agency. He went there in order to identify the challenges and flaws and to remove them. He will fulfill this task of the President whatever the cost,” the Belarusian head of state said.

Addressing the participants of the session, the President added: “You need to get used to it if you serve in the border troops, not any other kind of troops. It is not because the President served there, but because border troops are special troops, they operate in battle conditions. Our army should be prepared if something happens (God forbid, of course). Maybe, nothing will happen. The border troops fulfill combat tasks. That is what makes them different”.

“Most importantly, your failures and flaws on the last meter of our land can lead to far-reaching consequences for the entire country,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

The head of state wondered how his instructions are fulfilled and how the border troops are doing, what problems persist and how they should be tackled. He noted that the major tasks for the border troops were defined and their areas of operation were specified a year ago. They made the basis for the draft law on border security that is being studied by the parliament now.

“We need to admit that not all our plans are duly fulfilled. It is obvious even at a glance that the border agency has not always been able to provide an adequate response to new challenges and the changes in the operational environment on the border. We all know very well that security of the state starts from the state border. Everybody should realize that the border security is not a gift from above, it is not a matter of course, but the result of everyday painstaking work of many people. Of course, the border troops play a central role here. However, it is impossible to do without coordinated and coherent efforts of all the state-run agencies involved,” the President said.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, all in all the State Border Committee is fulfilling its duties. “However, the current situation prompts us to ramp up efforts to respond to modern-day challenges and threats,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko drew attention to a number of factors that influence the work of the border troops. “We talk a lot about the ice hockey world championship and other events. We are always on the frontline and we protect not only our interests, but also those of Russia and Kazakhstan, because integration has brought about a common economic space that can be interpreted as a common economic state. Considering that the West and the NATO are at our gates, your work is of paramount importance,” the head of state said.

Chairman of the State Border Committee Leonid Maltsev informed the President about the operation of border services in 2013 and the approaches to the protection of the state border in 2014. In his words, in 2013 border troops unraveled 22 channels of illegal migration, stepped up efforts to combat illegal migration, trade, drugs and ammunition trafficking. “In fact, the existing schemes of cooperation with state bodies help protect our borders. However, the situation is constantly changing and it is necessary to constantly improve our interaction. Then the results of our joint work at the state border can be more substantial,” Leonid Maltsev believes.

Border services are planning to make an ample use of cutting-edge technologies, including drones, to protect the state border. Apart from that, there are plans to introduce the experimental electronic queue management system at a number of border checkpoints this year. If this innovation proves successful it will be used extensively.

Leonid Maltsev also said that the agency is currently implementing a set of measures to gear up for the IIHF World Championship. They have developed a mechanism permitting visa-free entry to Belarus for ice hockey fans, guests and participants of the tournament. Border clearance procedures in relation to such visitors will be conducted on a priority basis.

The size of border patrol units will be increased. Special reserve units will respond to instantaneous issues. The personnel of border checkpoints will have a good command of foreign languages. It is also possible to use volunteers as interpreters.

Head of the Smorgon border service Alexander Markevich informed the head of state about the operation of his unit. The Belarusian-Lithuanian border is famous for heavy freight and passenger traffic. Moreover, the Smorgon unit has to take on some responsibilities due to the nuclear power plant construction.

There are plans to increase the capacity of a number of border checkpoints. For example, the Losha border checkpoint with a simplified border crossing regime can serve empty freight vehicles and buses. This measure is expected to lessen the burden on overstrained border checkpoints Kamenny Log and Kotlovka.

Minister of Transport and Communications Anatoly Sivak told the President about the operation of railway and aviation border checkpoints and the measures the agency takes to prepare the transport infrastructure for the IIHF World Championship in Minsk. The upgrade of railway border checkpoints is done in line with the relevant program till 2020 which among other things provides for the infrastructure improvement with a view to streamlining border and customs control. Apart from that, the ministry implements a set of measures to prepare the transport infrastructure for the oncoming world championship.

The President remarked that transport services need to bolster cooperation with border troops at border checkpoints.

Deputy Chairman of the Brest Oblast Executive Committee, Chairman of the Brest Oblast Border Commission Viktor Sakovsky told the head of state about the progress in the implementation of the national border policy in Brest Oblast. Similar commissions have been established in all Belarusian regions.

Viktor Sakovsky said that local authorities are doing their best to ensure closer cooperation between territorial law enforcement bodies and border checkpoints. The agency also takes measures to maintain border checkpoints with a simplified border crossing regime and repair adjacent roads. People living in near-border boroughs are informed about the rules of staying in the frontier zone and penalties for the violation of the border legislation.

However, Aleksandr Lukashenko expressed doubt that these commissions are efficient. He wanted to know the opinion of Leonid Maltsev.

The Chairman of the State Border Committee said that sometimes there is too much bureaucracy in such agencies.

The President emphasized the inadmissibility of formalism in the work of oblast border commissions. “We should check up these commissions, study their workload, vest them with more duties if necessary. Or maybe liquidate them if there is no need in them. No formalism is acceptable here. If they have been created and there is a need in them, let us work efficiently,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The President required considering the best ways to optimize the forces and resources of the border agency. “We need to remove nonessential services from the State Border Committee, and this will be an example for other agencies. Optimization is needed. All these maintenance services, departments, military units, groups need to be removed in the interests and for the benefit of the state border,” the head of state said.

“I will not remind you once again about the world championship. The tournament will end, and we have to use what we have created for the benefit of the people and the state,” the Belarus leader added.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that inspections in the Armed Forces will be followed by inspections in the border agency. “In the late spring or the summer we will conduct rigorous inspections in the border troops; we will check how the state border is protected. These days we need to have a look at a corresponding plan, the same way we have done with the Armed Forces. The checks will be comprehensive,” the head of state said.

The President gave separate instructions regarding measures to strengthen the country’s weight as a guarantor of stability and security on the common border with the European Union. “We need to make better use of the EU's interest in strong border with Belarus. Therefore, I have set a task for Leonid Maltsev to show the European Union and the entire international community that Belarus is a country that should be loved, appreciated and respected. We need to carry out a number of events. They should see that we combat illegal migration, smuggling and transportation of radioactive substances. We need to show them our importance. We have professionals, solutions and human resources. Give us money and hardware and we will work together. Appreciate us as your partners,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

At the end of the session the head of state approved the resolution on protecting the state border of Belarus  in 2014.