Russian fence blocks off Crimea
Russia says it has built a 60km fence, equipped with sensors and CCTV cameras, along the north of the illegally occupied Crimea peninsula.
Russia’s Border Directorate of the Federal Security Service said the purpose of the fence, work on which began in 2015, was “to prevent sabotage activities” and “attempts by criminal groups to smuggle weapons, ammunition, tobacco, alcohol, gasoline, drugs”.
The fence spans the land bridge connecting Crimea with Kherson (pictured) in southern Ukraine.
Yefim Fiks, a spokesman for the Russian-controlled Crimean parliament, told the Russian media that the move was necessary “to protect the local population from the crazy antics of the current Ukrainian government”.
He said “everything can be expected” from Ukraine.
“Even if these provocations do not come from the authorities, inadequate radicals can do it,” Fiks said.
Russia also moved more than 12 fighter jets to Crimea this week.
Andriy Demchenko of Ukraine’s border force dismissed the fence as propaganda.
“It is more likely a propaganda move by Russia to demonstrate strengthening security, separating from Ukraine and to make sure that, as they say, sabotage groups won’t be able to cross the border in future,” the spokesman said.
“I hope that neither this fence nor other actions by occupants will lead to limitation of Ukrainian citizens’ right to visit the peninsula.”
The United Nations estimates that 104 people have died during the conflict with Russia so far this year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron today (Friday) called on Russia to release 24 Ukrainian sailors it captured along with the two small gunboats and a tugboat in late November in the Kerch Strait, which separates the the Black Sea and Sea of Azov.
In a joint statement, the two leaders demanded free access for all international shipping through the strait.
Moscow accuses the 24 naval personnel of illegally crossing Russian territory, while Kiev says the Russian forces captured the boats illegally and there is no reason to give the Russian authorities notice.
The Kremlin mouthpiece Tass said the fence was similar to that used on Russia’s northern and eastern borders and in other volatile areas.
The budget was estimated at 200 million rubles (US$2.9 million). “The fence’s construction should provide high durability, long service and should be cost effective when in operation as well,” Tass reported. “The service life guarantee of the fence and its equipment is at least 10 years. The structures are resistant to tough climate conditions, including humidity of up to 98 per cent and air temperatures of 65°C.”
Kherson on the Ukrainian side. Picture credit: IHA