President Vladimir Putin: Protecting our borders is important for us above all as part of ensuring security for our citizens. It is also important for ensuring the state’s economic interests. We only began taking active steps in this area in 2000, and work only really got underway in 2002. During the first stage of work we will concentrate on equipping the border from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea, from Astrakhan to Sochi. At the same time, we will also begin work on the Kazakhstan stretch of the border. Overall, we plan to spend around 15 billion roubles on work on this southern stretch of our borders. As you can see, the first section here is already complete.
Two mountain brigades are to be stationed here on this stretch of state border in the south to provide the troops needed to cover the area. The necessary funds have already been allocated to this effect. This work will be complete by 2007, taking into account also our upcoming withdrawal from our bases on Georgian territory. We will withdraw from Georgian territory, but as far as having the troops in place goes, our needs here on the southern borders will be covered and the troops will have modern equipment and facilities at their disposal. As you can see, the work to protect our borders now being carried out is based on completely new arms and technical equipment that make use of the most advanced technology, including the latest communications systems.
We will need to resolve the question of ensuring good coordination between the military units and the Border Guards Service. I am confident that we will, of course, do this successfully. We will develop and equip our border both at sea and here on land. We should remember that if we want to develop our relations with our partners in other countries, including in European countries, and if we want to work towards a modern and decent visa regime for our citizens, we have to able to fulfil the commitments we have made to other countries. We will not be able to contemplate any visa-free travel so long as we have not yet resolved the task of ensuring the security of our external borders.
When we began this work three years ago, it turned out that the country no longer had the competent specialists it needed to work on equipping our borders to the required technological level. The technology had been lost. The thing is that we did this work on the state border in the 1920s and 1930s, back in the Soviet Union years, and since then no one had dealt with these issues and we found ourselves having to start completely from scratch.
But this also has a positive aspect in that, as you can see, we are able to develop everything anew now, implementing the latest technology. I think that the heads of the Federal Security Service and the Border Guards Service have the right approach in that, as they work on improving living conditions for servicemen, they will also take steps at the same time to address some of the problems faced by the local people living in districts where our border guards and servicemen are stationed. Work in all these areas will progress as a complex of measures and the required resources will be made available. Approximately 65 billion roubles of budget funds are to be allocated for equipping Russia's entire southern border.