Will Ukraine finish the “Project Wall”? (and will it be a deterrent?)

The “European Wall” or “Fence” is the Ukrainian project to strengthen the Ukrainian-Russian border to prevent any potential full-scale offensive by the Russian Army. It was launched in 2014 and was due to be completed in 2018. The new completion date, however, has been postponed to 2021. The construction of the wall became a controversial and high-profile case, as the Ukrainian national budget is not able to bear such large costs. Also, as it turned out, much money from the project was embezzled.

Oleg Slobodian, the representative of the State Border Guard Service, stated that the aggression of Russia provoked the start of this project.

The “Fence” project includes the insertion of a new border guard system — the installation of special defenses, such as observation towers with sensor cameras, the strongholds, metal fences with infrared cameras, etc. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, former prime minister of Ukraine, has said that a ditch with the width of at least four meters and a depth of two meters will eventually be positioned on the land sections of the border. And on the sea areas of the border, it is planned to install a complete optico-electronic observation station.

According to the former prime minister, at the initial stage Ukraine will pay for the cost of building, and in the future the government will look for European partners. But European partners have not appeared yet.

The total cost of the project was initially projected to be 8 billion UAH, but later this amount was cut by half. The planned wall length is 2200 km. At present, 15% of the planned project is done, at a cost of more than 680 million UAH. All the work took place within the Kharkiv, Chernigov, Sumy and Lugansk regions.

In August 2017, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine detained seven officers of the State Border Service and contractors, who are suspected of stealing project funds. The preliminary total damage is more than 16 million UAH. But in spite of that, building of the wall is continuing.

In turn, Russia also began to erect borders around the annexed Crimea, which led to further indignation on the part of Ukraine, which still lays claim to the peninsula.

In any case, both politicians and citizens have different views about the issue of building the “fence”. Some of them consider it to be a waste of public money; others are convinced of the necessity of this project. Many believe that the wall at the border is not able to help, because Ukraine and Russia are experiencing an interstate conflict that is coming from outside those boundaries.

“The wall will stop only ground forces, but only for a short period of time. It is not able to stop the circulation of weapons and the movement of armed groups by air. It does not protect against the information and economic attacks. Therefore, this project is not worth starting, especially with the limited financial state resources,“ said Nikolai Sungurovsky, director of military programs of the Razumkov Center.

Because a “security fence” at the border exists in many countries, many still feel that construction of the “fence” could help to restore peace in Ukraine.

Margarita Aleksandrenko  (Kiev, Ukraine)

(translated by Viktoria Yanchuk and Tatiana Anokhina)

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