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‘Project Wall’, which demarcates the border between Russia and Ukraine, was given the green light yesterday as Ukrainian PM Yatseniuk announced the official launch of its construction; it might prove far less cost-efficient than estimated by Kiev.
MOSCOW, December 10 (Sputnik) – Ukraine has started fencing its border with Russia, claiming such measure will prevent Russian military and paramilitary personnel from infiltrating the nation’s territory. According to the Ukrainian government’s estimates, ‘Project Wall’ will take roughly four years and $500 mln to complete, raising doubts of its potential efficiency, as it is quite expensive in terms of both money and time. Albeit drawing obvious comparisons to another famed wall in Europe, namely the Berlin Wall, Ukraine’s ‘Project Wall’ is more reminiscent of other controversial demarcation projects like the American-Mexican Border fence and the Belfast wall.
Ukraine’s ‘Project Wall’ officially started yesterday, as announced by the nation’s PM Arseniy Yatseniuk, with an approved budget of 8 bln hryvnas (roughly $517 mln), along with the establishment of a separate governmental authority to manage the borderline. Kiev’s plan to construct the controversial wall, which will divide the nations of Ukraine and Russia, has been subject to hot debates for several past months, in Russia, Europe and Ukraine. Ex-PM of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko was quoted as saying that “the Great Wall of China, the Maginot Line and Mannerheim Line – none of this worked well to defend countries during military aggression.” Thorbjorn Jagland, Secretary-General for the Council of Europe called the ‘Project Wall’ “inadmissible.” In Russia, criticism of the ‘Project Wall’ is coming mainly from the parliament with senators and MPs dubbing the wall an “unnecessary” measure, as Russia and Ukraine are “fraternal nations.”
Ukraine’s plans of constructing a 2,295 km border fence for only $500 mln seem way too optimistic. Similar efforts, undertaken in different parts of world, have required a lot more resources. For instance, the 800-km ‘anti-terrorist fence’ in Israel has thus far cost $2 bn and is far from completion, as reported by Global Construction Review. According to 2007 independent estimates by the Congressional Research Office, the 1125-km US-Mexico Border Fence will take the US 25 years and $49 bln to construct, as quoted by Forbes. In different parts of the US-Mexican demarcation bulwark, one mile of construction costs between $1 mln and $3.8 mln, according to data by Global Security. Moreover, the fence has not yet proven efficient enough to fend off illegal aliens rushing into America.
Another similar undertaking, the 34-km Belfast Wall (officially known as ‘Peace Lines’) in the UK, costs an estimated 120,000 GBP ($190,000) to 1.5 bln GBP ($2.36 bln) a year to maintain only, according to the Economist. Started in 1969, the expensive structure was erected to put an end to hostilities between Catholic and Protestant communities in Ulster, claiming one of the biggest price tags on peace in the history of humanity.
Ukraine’s ‘Project Wall’, therefore, would probably far exceed the currently approved budget of $500 mln, if implemented. Kiev’s plan also provides additional measures of security, such as wide and deep ditches along the actual fence, control towers and electric systems, as well as other monitoring tools. Maintaining such a complicated structure would be another burden for the nation’s budget.
The Ukraine-Russian border has hardly been guarded, or even properly marked so far. Is some cases, the national border dissects towns, streets and even houses between Russia and Ukraine, making it resemble even more the Belfast Wall situation, where people are divided in accordance with their fundamental values rather than ethnicity.
"The state border runs right through the streets and courtyards of private houses," wrote East Ukraine’s Denis Kazansky of Bloomberg Businessweek. "People there tell jokes about houses where the kitchen is in Ukraine and the toilet in Russia."
So far, ‘Project Wall’ has met with harsh domestic opposition in Ukraine, as it is widely believed that the project is driven by something other than security concerns. Ukrainian political commentator Volodymyr Fesenko said that the highly publicized fence is nothing but a “stupid PR stunt", as reported by Global Construction Review. Some Ukrainian observers see more harm than use in the project as it provides vast opportunities for bribery, money laundering and other forms of corruption.
“They should have access to the documents and also it would be a good thing to invite foreign construction specialists to supervise and control the quality of the work,” Daria Kalenyuk of the Anticorruption Action Centre told the Kyiv Post.
Ukrainian military experts say such walls might be useful in fighting borderline crime, like in the US or Ulster, but would hardly come in handy in the warzone.
“For example the construction of tank detachments is very expensive and it’s not effective without troop support. Also Ukraine doesn’t have enough troops to make more than 2,000 kilometers of border secure,” Viacheslav Tseluiko of the Center for Army, Conversion and Disarmament Studies told the Kyiv Post.
The actual shortcomings of the ‘Project Wall’ will become evident during the early stages of its construction as PM Yatseniuk seems adamant in his desire to put a wall between Ukraine and Russia.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
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