Russia celebrated the border guard day last week. General of the Army Vladimir Pronichev, chief of the border guard service of the FSB, stated that “the Federal Security Service is now creating a new system of protection of the state border and the modern border guard service, which will be able to ensure security of the border”.

Pronichev noted that “the border becomes a serious obstacle to crime groups”. Last year border guard units detained over 8,000 violators of the border, confiscated over three tons of drugs and checked over 65,000 people without citizenship. Border guards found around 10,000 people who were banned from visiting the Russian Federation.

The border guard service is being reformed. It has been switching to the regional principle of protection of the border since July 2004. The reform is being realizing on the basis of the federal program for the development of the Russian border in 2003-10 and other documents. The regional structure of the border guard service includes seven regional border guard departments in federal districts and 30 border guard departments in Federation subjects, which border foreign countries. The coast guard has been created.

Pronichev thinks that these reforms were necessitated by the character of threats to Russia’s security. He stated that the current methods are very expensive and inefficient. This is why it’s necessary to switch from static activities to an active search for violators and precise operations on the border. This includes gathering of information about the situation on the border and the creation of mobile reserves. The border guard service intends to strengthen the operational component and create special units.

Pronichev noted that the North-Caucasus will be the focus of attention. The border guard service intends to build 72 border guard posts in the North-Caucasian region until 2007. To date 17 border guard posts have been built; 38 border guard posts are underway. There are plans to start building 17 border guard posts this year. The new border guard posts are equipped with modern technical systems, which make it possible to monitor the situation on the border. In addition, the border guard service plans to reconstruct the training center in the Krasnodar region (in Anapa) and three bases for the warships Kaspiisk, Makhachkala and Sochi. Funding of this plan will amount to 14.8 billion rubles. This is a substantial sum, which can be compared with Chechnya’s budget. In all, the border guard service will spend 20 billion rubles on the program in 2007.

In the meantime, there are many problems with security on the border. The border guard service reports that the amount of smuggling seized on the border has doubled over the past three years. Smugglers currently prefer to use sea channels. Crime groups seek new channels of smuggling in the sea sector. Illegal migrants use sea channels in order to infiltrate into Russia. Attempts to misuse biological resources are another serious problem. Pronichev said that “Russian fishing boats illegally sell sea products at foreign ports”.

The coast guard, which the border guard department currently creates, must solve this problem. Unfortunately, the new system will start working only in 2011. The system will be equipped with the naval and aircraft components. New bases for warships and speed boats will be built. All units of the coast guard will consist of contract servicemen.

The border guard department hopes that the performance of border guard units will improve after switching to the contract system of recruitment. To date professional units have been created in the Central, Trans-Volga and Ural federal districts. Part of units has become professional in the Siberian and Southern federal districts. It should be noted that the Argun border guard unit located in the Chechen mountains will become professional.