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    VETERAN BORDER GUARDS MARK 35TH ANNIVERSARY OF SOVIET-CHINESE CONFLICT

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    VLADIVOSTOK, MARCH 1 (RIA NOVOSTI) - Veteran members of the Russian border-control force, including Hero of the Soviet Union Vitaly Bubenin, visited the Nizhne-Mikhailovskaya border outpost March 1, remembering all those, who fought heroically for the small Damansky island on the Ussuri river (Russian Far East).

    A rally was organized at the outpost, with those present also laying wreaths at a monument to border guards, who were killed in action; moreover, veterans received awards; and a concert featuring army songs took place, as well.

    The Soviet-Chinese military conflict flared up on the banks of the Ussuri river in the Soviet Union's Primorye (Maritime) territory 35 years ago. Soviet border guards staunchly defended Damansky island over the March 2-15, 1969 period.

    Historians blamed the Soviet leadership for that conflict, after the Communist regime crumbled to dust. In their words, the conflict was caused by some rather vague provisions of the 1860 Beijing treaty. According to that document, the Russian-Chinese border passed along the banks of the Amur and Ussuri rivers.

    Meanwhile the treaty didn't demarcate the water surface and local islands; consequently, China disputed that border line, perceiving Damansky island as its own because that island was located along the Ussuri river's Chinese waterway.

    Soviet-Chinese political relations became aggravated in the 1960s, what with Chinese border guards, who were incited by official Maoist propaganda, staging numerous provocations.

    One such provocation escalated into a conflict. On March 2, 1969 Chinese guards killed first lieutenant Ivan Strelnikov, who commanded the Nizhne-Mikhailovskaya outpost, and seven Soviet soldiers serving under his command; all of them were shot pointblank.

    32 Soviet border guards were killed in the first few days; however, Chinese invaders failed to establish control over Damansky island. 58 people were killed and another 94 wounded during that conflict over the March 2-21, 1969 period.

    On March 15 the Chinese side made its last abortive attempt to seize Damansky island.

    Border guards, as well as army units, fought on both sides; artillery pieces, tanks and multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) were used in the conflict.

    First lieutenant Ivan Strelnikov was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously. First lieutenant Vitaly Bubenin and junior sergeant Yury Babansky received that title, as well. Col. Democrat Leonov, who commanded the local border-control unit, became Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously too.

    Soviet and Chinese state delegations negotiated in September 1969, agreeing to retain the then Soviet-Chinese border, that near Damansky island included.

    As Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika drive neared its end, the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China agreed to demarcate their border along the Ussuri river's waterway in line with the May 19, 1991 agreement. For its own part, Damansky island was ceded to China in accordance with that document.

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