President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Kulishov, I have only one question to launch our discussion: how is your tenure as Border Guard Service Director going, what problems do you see, what challenges have you faced, what was unexpected or, conversely, how do you intend to resolve problems that you were already aware of? Has anything new arisen and what issues did you want to discuss with me?
First Deputy Director of The FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE AND DIRECTOR OF THE BORDER GUARD SERVICE VLADIMIR KULISHOV: Mr President, first of all I would like to report that the operational situation along Russia’s state border has not changed significantly in the second quarter of 2013. The FSB Border Guard Service continues to work at implementing your directives and previously approved plans. I just made adjustments to my agenda as Service Director, and made several trips in order to become familiar with the real situation on the ground, including to what I thought were priority locations.
First of all, I travelled to border regions in the North Caucasus Federal District and visited our outposts and offices on the Russian-Georgian and Russian-Azerbaijani borders. Incidentally, I met with my Azerbaijani counterpoint at the Yarag-Kazmalyar border post, and we discussed joint efforts in this field.
I also assessed the security measures in place for the Olympics. In general Border Guard Service teams are ready to cope with the tasks at hand. With this in mind we went to Abkhazia, looked at the infrastructure of our border directorate there, including in places where ships are based and in our offices throughout the republic.
I made a working visit to the Far Eastern Federal District, where I visited Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and was briefed about the implementation of your instructions to create a Russian Coast Guard. I then headed north, circled over Wrangel Island and visited Ratmanov Island, where we are planning to place equipment to monitor current conditions, including the safety of the Northern Sea Route. Due to adverse weather conditions I stopped at Pevek, then went down to Magadan, where I also did some work, including holding a detailed discussion of various measures taken to protect biological resources.
With regards to international activities, I was elected Chairman of the CIS Border Troops Commanders Council at the Council’s 69th meeting in Odessa. I held bilateral talks with all the heads of CIS border services.
In Lithuania I met with heads of border services of the Baltic states and Belarus. We assessed our progress, entered into an agreement to continue cross-border cooperation, and planned a number of joint operations, including some designed to block the illegal migration channels through Russia to Europe. In the second quarter of 2013, we conducted an operation which resulted in criminal charges in Baltic countries, as well as in Belarus and the Russian Federation. This shows that such activities are needed as they help stop criminal activities, including cross-border crime.
This June in Yekaterinburg I met with the heads of border services of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation members and Afghanistan. We held bilateral talks with the Afghan Border Police.
In September 2013 we plan to visit the Far East. In Vladivostok, Russia will chair a meeting of heads of border services of the North Pacific region, including the United States, Japan, Russia and Korea. There we will also discuss joint efforts to protect biological resources and work out the priorities for our future events. After that I plan to stay in the region and work on coastal management, on Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands. In accordance with the federal targeted programme for Russia’s state border for 2012 to 2020, a number of facilities have been planned and I want to visit them and evaluate the progress that has been made.
Vladimir Putin: How are social issues being resolved?
Vladimir Kulishov: Mr President, naturally there has recently been significant progress in resolving the social problems our military personnel face, including thanks to federal targeted programmes.
These issues are being addressed more effectively in the Caucasus and Central Russia. In the Far East, good quality housing for border guards is being built fairly steadily where our border offices are deployed, and in regional centres. Naturally, the situation is more difficult along our distant frontiers, where service conditions and technical equipment are edging closer to the ideal, but living conditions remain a problem.
Vladimir Putin: We must develop service housing.
Vladimir Kulishov: Eighteen people live on Ratmanov Island; there is not a single village there, only our technical supervision point. Of course, the people who are serving there command our respect.
Vladimir Putin: Border guards perform a special service, they are always on duty in the truest sense of the word. Border guards are always battle-ready and really do perform combat missions. They have virtually no other employment, so we should look at monetary allowances. You know the plans as of 2014. All this will have to be comprehensively addressed, and housing issues too.
Everything relating to the protection of the state border is important – there are no minor issues here – but nevertheless we must pay particular attention to the south of the country, to the North Caucasus and cooperation with our colleagues in Central Asian republics in the light of the situation in Afghanistan. In addition, we must pay attention to the Far East and the Arctic.
Vladimir Kulishov: This year we have received applications from more than 300 vessels to use the Northern Sea Route, and the proportion of foreign ships is increasing. Therefore, we see our task as supervising and ensuring Russia’s security and interests specifically in the Arctic region. To do this, we build our work on research and development as well as use existing border infrastructure.