Russian saboteurs and hirelings carry out an open war on the territory of Ukraine. Ukrainian special force units suffer losses, there are a lot of injured. How do Russian militants actually get in Ukraine? It seems that the border is guarded more intensively, additional forces are involved, but the destabilization of the situation spreads on new territories of the south and east. Why? Read about it in the interview with assistant head of the State Border Service of Ukraine Serhii ASTAKHOV.
How do Russian militants who fight against Ukrainian special force units actually cross the border? For example, how is it done by the Chechen hirelings mentioned by the Internal Affairs Minister Avakov in a social network?
“We do not have a political decision on shutting down the border for the citizens of the Russian Federation yet. Therefore, those citizens who want to enter Ukraine or wanted to do so two months or half a year ago according to their valid documents, Russian passports in particular, could do it. After switching the security of the state border to an intensified mode, the Border Service takes all possible measures to limit the entrance of radically disposed citizens of the Russian Federation to Ukraine. Their initial questioning is carried out, then the so-called second line of control takes place, when the data indicated by them are checked (whom they visit, who expects them at the destination point, how they intend to move around the territory of Ukraine, when they will come back, do they have sufficient funds, etc.).
“The border is secured on three lines. And when someone talks about illegal entrance of military vehicles or people, 99.9 percent of those who says it have not ever been to that border. I state this with all due responsibility, because the head of the Service and I visit the border twice a week in various locations, we are personally present at all border checkpoints, at the whole ‘green border’ which is located among checkpoints. The situation is examined and controlled. It is impossible to illegally drive or break through the checkpoints, because they are protected with concrete blocks placed in a checkerboard order, guarded by armed border security officers, artificial obstacles, and the territories adjacent to checkpoints are protected as well.
“As for the ‘green border,’ in the places with rough terrain, automotive and military vehicles cannot move a priori. Should they hypothetically pass through them, they leave traces. Border units check these three lines every hour to see if any new passages appeared. We also have means of remote monitoring: vehicles are revealed within the distance of 18 kilometers in any weather conditions. Let alone our traditional border towers, secrets, hidden units, etc. So, we did not register a single trace in the fields that would indicate entrance of some heavy vehicles. Besides, tens of kilometers of ditches have been dug in dangerous locations over a month ago. There is no sense to dig near swamps or rivers. Yes, a person can go through there, but border units are placed there and remote monitoring is carried out.
“On the other hand, it is not written all over people’s faces why they enter Ukraine. We conduct certain operations and check those who enter by trains, there are specific limitations to group travels, there is age requirement. For example, an ordinary person is traveling, who looks normal and has a valid ID, and we cannot take a look inside their brain and know what they are inclined towards. When we search them and reveal some signs or objects that can influence the destabilization of the situation in Ukraine, it is one thing, but if they just travel with their wallet and then buy everything necessary from our separatist citizens, it is a different thing. That is why I would not say the border control is weak.”
What is the situation on the Transnistrian border like? Dmytro Tymchuk, head of the Center for Military and Political Research, writes on Facebook that “during the past three days, up to 250 ‘Putin’s tourists’ and saboteurs have infiltrated through the border between Transnistria and Ukraine.”
“Our service monitors the situation, carries out coordination with other force institutions, but not a single structure confirmed information on the fact of the border crossing. All sorts of things can be stated hypothetically, but we must proceed from facts. For example, yesterday information appeared that Russia would conduct military intervention at 7 p.m. We checked the information instantly, and everything was calm. But passions flare up. I receive countless calls from reliable newspapers, saying that eyewitnesses inform them that tanks are moving in. We check again – and nothing is happening. I do not know who intentionally creates this artificial craze, perhaps, someone wants to become famous, or it can be a deliberate provocation from the Russian Federation to shift the accents.”
So it boils down to this: everything is calm, but the number of hirelings and criminals from another country keeps growing?
“We act within the framework of the existing legislation and the orders given to the State Border Service. We fully perform our duties. There was no political decision on shutting down the border with the Russian Federation. If it appears, we are going to execute it.”
Do you think the border should be shut down?
“If 450 MPs cannot come to a consensus decision on the matter, it is clearly out of my jurisdiction. The problem should be viewed as part of the whole. Just shutting down is the simplest thing to do. But a chain reaction will start after that, because there are law-abiding citizens who work in Russia, have relatives there, go there for specific reasons. Also, we need to remember about the consequences for shipping operations and the economy of Ukraine in general. It is too close to a social outburst. On the other hand, we must understand that we have enough separatists who support saboteurs. We can stop ten of them, but there are hundreds of them on our territory, and they are citizens of Ukraine.”
What is the extent of protection of marine borders, in particular of those in the Sea of Azov, since Mariupol and Berdiansk regions are dangerous?
“We were forced to relocate our marine unit from Kerch to Mariupol to strengthen the existing marine border forces in the Sea of Azov. It is now deployed and adapted, and as soon as navigation conditions were favorable, they were sent to guard the border and territorial waters of Ukraine. Ships of the State Border Service constantly patrol the Sea of Azov. At the same time, we see that a significant number of Russia’s border ships is present there as well.”
Which parts of the border are the most endangered?
“Of course, it is border within Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. Our border patrols frankly tell us that unfortunately, we feel more internal threat, rather than external. For example, there are certain criminal gangs or just individuals under the influence who try to take hold of weapons. Sometimes it is done just to check the resoluteness of our actions. But believe me, when needed, border patrols will use weapons, and not only for warning. There have been some precedents already, and our forces have acted professionally.”
How did you change your operations after Russia’s aggression?
“We carried out regrouping of forces, mobilized the reserves, all mobile units were relocated to the eastern and southern areas. In addition, motorized maneuvering groups like the ones in the Soviet forces in Afghanistan were created. We have enough officers who have the experience of carrying out adequate, active operations for the localization of specific districts. These groups are able to provide resistance in case of an open invasion on the territory of our country. Besides, we received almost 4,000 enlisted personnel from the mobilization reserve. We used to think that we were surrounded by friendly countries and that there would be no open military confrontation. Our legislative framework which regulates the activity of the border service, the very activity of the structure, the training programs, and even the uniforms were oriented on European standards. But now everything has changed drastically, we have to review and intensify the military compound. The total number of the State Border Service members is 50,000.”
How can the flow of Russian militants to the territory of Ukraine be stopped?
“The world has changed. Even the reaction of the European Union to the blatant actions and provocations from Russia is rather more methodical than decisive and practical. We could have chosen a more radical path, but this does not depend on the Border Service, it is up to the parliament and government.”