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Home News EU says Lithuania can use funds for Russian border surveillance

EU says Lithuania can use funds for Russian border surveillance

Published on 17/01/2017

Lithuania can use EU funds to install surveillance systems on its border with Russia's militarised Kaliningrad exclave but not to build a fence, the EU said on Tuesday.

Vilnius has said it wants to build a fence on the border with Kaliningrad amid concern from fellow Baltic states over the Russian military build-up.

The so-called exclave of Kaliningrad is sandwiched between Poland and Lithuania, both EU and NATO members.

“The Commission indeed does not finance the construction of fences or barriers at the external borders,” said Tove Ernst, a spokeswoman for the European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation bloc.

“What we do fund is border management, including through stepping up surveillance and border control equipment,” Ernst told AFP.

“The national programme for Lithuania does for example include the upgrading of border surveillance systems at the external borders,” Ernst told reporters earlier, citing thermal cameras and sensor alarm systems.

Construction of the 130-kilometre (80-mile) fence will start this spring and will be finished by the end of the year, Lithuania’s Interior Minister Eimutis Misiunas told AFP on Monday.

“The reasons are both economic to prevent smuggling and geopolitical to strengthen the EU’s external border,” he said.

The two-metre (six-foot) high fence will cost around 30 million euros ($32 million).

“It would not stop tanks but it will be difficult to climb over,” Misiunas said.

The stretch of border is currently a popular route used by Kaliningrad-based cigarette smugglers to ferry contraband into Lithuania.

Misiunas said the fence could prevent cross-border “provocations”, recalling a 2014 incident in which Estonia accused Russia of abducting an intelligence officer at gunpoint on the border.

NATO is deploying troops in the Baltic states and Poland to deter Russia from making more land grabs following its 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

The Kremlin denies any territorial ambitions and insists NATO is trying to encircle Russia.

Moscow’s deployment of nuclear-capable Iskander missiles into Kaliningrad last year and frequent military drills in the Baltic region have rattled neighbouring Poland and Lithuania.

Over the next few months, the United States is due to also deploy part of an armoured brigade to Lithuania and other Baltic NATO states on a rotational basis.