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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Pronichev, we meet on a regular basis. What is the current situation in your service and how do you evaluate its work?
The Service’s primary responsibility is to protect our state borders, of course, but it has other tasks too, tasks with an economic dimension. I am referring to poaching at sea, for example.
I would like to discuss with you the Service’s main task, but also this issue too, which, though it seems a secondary matter at first glance, has considerable economic importance.
Director of the Fsb Border Guard Service Vladimir Pronichev: Mr President, in accordance with the instructions you gave, we have focused primarily on countering the threats our country faces on the North Caucasus and Central Asian flanks, and to this end carried out the federal targeted programme for 2003–2011, which was evaluated as being 99.5 percent effective.
We are now at the very important stage of concentrating on the Far East, where we are working to prevent trans-national crime, particularly in the bio-resources area.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, we implemented the project to develop border infrastructure in the North Caucasus region, and agreed to continue this work. What is the current situation?
Vladimir Pronichev: Our main efforts at the moment are concentrating on security at the farther approaches, above all around Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We have essentially completed the border protection development work in the South Ossetian direction, and are currently in the process of completing the engineering infrastructure work. This puts in place a multi-echelon state border protection system.
Vladimir Putin: We talked about the need to continue this programme in other regions. What is happening here?
Vladimir Pronichev: The instructions you gave concern not just completion of the land-based component of the system. With the military rearmament and modernisation programme currently underway, we are getting the modern technology we need, aircraft, night vision and thermal vision devices, and so on, and are therefore reinforcing our prevention capability. The equipment is all Russian-made. We think that the land borders are now quite effectively protected.
Vladimir Putin: And the checkpoints?
Vladimir Pronichev: As far as the checkpoints are concerned, the overall development concept is the first and foremost thing here. You already signed the document and we are in the process now of almost completely reforming this whole area. Why are we doing this?
This is needed because, if you compare things with the Soviet period, we had 2.5 million people coming through the border crossings, but last year, 139 million people came to and went from the Russian Federation, and there is an upward trend. It has thus become a priority to upgrade the checkpoints and equip them with modern technology. We are also in the process of setting up a subdivision to detect trans-border criminal groups’ activities carried on via these channels. Of course, training for our personnel is also a priority.
Concerning the North Caucasus region specifically, where the situation is complicated – I am thinking of the Adler region, for example, – the checkpoint there is now in place.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, we visited it together.
Vladimir Pronichev: That’s right. It is in place and we are now completing the technical equipment installation process. We are doing this together with Rosgranitsa [Federal Agency for State Border Development]. We will hold a meeting together with Rosgranitsa and the Public Council to show how this technology is already working now.
Vladimir Putin: Last year, we discussed the issue of buying new vessels for the Border Guard Service. I know you have a whole programme in this area.
Vladimir Pronichev: Yes, we have a programme for modernising the coastguard. We have already received state-of-the-art new vessels that are working very well. We will gradually bring the number up to 25 of these new vessels. We have the resources for this.
Vladimir Putin: They are to be used in the north, the Baltic, and in the Far East?
Vladimir Pronichev: The coastguards there are also getting modern rapid vessels with water displacement of around 40 tons, even of 125 tons, and with speeds of 50 knots. In other words, these are effective vessels, and they will also be deployed on the Azov and Black Seas too.