Razor wire removed from the Russian border awaits its fate

Priit Pullerits
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Photo: Madis Veltman

At the Marinova dolomite quarry, which stretches along the Russian side in southeastern Estonia, on the border between gravel and grass, there are about a dozen piles of razor wire, which was unrolled along the border with Russia last autumn in order to obstruct possible intruders of the kind which caused an stressful confrontation on Poland's border with Belarus at that time.

The residents of Setomaa observed that the removal of the temporary border barrier made of razor wire at the winding border section near Tiirhanna-Vinski-Marinova southeast of the village of Obinitsa began about half a year after its installation, in April and May.

The participants in the Okas (Spike) refresher training exercise last November installed razor wire at the southeastern border of Estonia on nearly 40 kilometers, of which some six kilometers have been cleared of it by now, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) announced.

The reason for removing the razor wire is not that the working dog Vico injured its paws while detaining two suspicious persons there or that a female elk calf that entered Estonia from Russia this winter died of injuries caused by the wire. PPA representatives, supported by the Defense League, removed the razor wire from the sections where the construction of border will soon begin.

However, forester Üllar Tamm, a member of the Setomaa municipal council, has noticed while driving around in his home region that the construction has not yet begun in a number of sections where the temporary border barrier has been removed.

Natalia Abel, project manager of PPA's border construction group, admitted that a certain amount of time remains between the removal of the razor wire and the installation of the border fence, depending on the location. She explained that border construction does not start immediately with the installation of the fence, but a number of preparatory works must be done first. Among other things, it is necessary to draft the plan of the area, build embankments and foundation strata, install protective pipes, wells and other infrastructure. Only after that the delaying fence can be erected.

According to Abel, the largest amount of the coiled razor wire has been taken away already, and those coils still lying on the ground by the border will be removed with the help of the Defense League to the necessary place as soon as possible. She added that the PPA has indeed left the coiled razor wire in some places where it may be necessary to reuse it when building the delaying fence.

At the same time, Abel refuted the common rumor among the people of Setomaa, claiming that once used and coiled up razor wire cannot be effectively used again. “We aim to reuse the razor wire and we have not noticed that it cannot be done,” she said.

Since the temporary razor wire barrier was installed last November in the location where, according to the PPA, the risk of illegal border crossing was the highest, one might wonder how well these border sections are protected now that the barrier is no longer there.

Eve Kalmus, head of the PPA's border administration office, agreed that a physical barrier, be it a temporary razor wire or a delaying fence, is important, but by no means the only means of preventing illegal border crossing. She explained that to effectively guard the border, it is necessary to build access roads for quick response and install proper surveillance equipment to detect threats, not to mention the importance of border patrols and intelligence gathering.

“We want to carry out the construction of complete border infrastructure as soon as we can so that the border would be guarded as well as possible,” Kalmus said.

Head of the Border Guard Egert Belichev said in a long interview to Postimees last week that the PPA wants to have the border infrastructure completed as planned by 2025.

Currently, active construction is underway on a 40-kilometer section north of Luhamaa. According to the PPA border construction project manager Abel, the construction works are ahead of the planned schedule, which has been made possible, among other things, by favorable weather conditions and thorough preparations.