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Russia: Border Guard Merger With Security Service Wins Little Support.

  • Simon Saradzhyan



Moscow, 28 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- President Boris Yeltsin's decision to integrate the Federal Border Guard Service (FPS) into the Federal Security Service (FSB) has, so far, won few if any supporters among Russian borders guards. But, the action has inspired hope - and fear among those who thought the KGB was gone forever.

Moreover, even though official media already describe the merger as certain, border guard officials say it might still be averted.

"Don't forget that the decision is yet to be taken," cautioned chief of the Federal Border Guard Service's information office, Colonel Alexander Suvorov. Suvorov said one of the several draw backs of any formal alliance between his service and the FSB is the need to either reverse or to amend at least 12 federal laws. "It is a very complicated issue," said Suvorov.

Suvorov's colleagues were less cautious in their comments.

One Border Guard Service Colonel (anonymous) told RFE/RL, "I don't really understand why President Yeltsin would first approve the program of development of us as an independent service until (the year) 2010...and then 'subordinate' us to the FSB."

All of the Border Guard Service personnel interviewed said they believed their Service would not be in jeopardy had General Andrei Nikolayev remained in command. Nikolayev, once considered to be one of Russia's most promising statesmen and Yeltsin's long-time friend, was removed by Yeltsin last month.

Nikolayev's successor was named Monday: Nikolai Borduzha. But, now, Russian media are speculating that the current head of the FSB, Nikolai Kovalyov might be replaced by Nikolayev.

Last month, Russian media seemed to agree that the reason for Nikolayev's dismissal was based on a seemingly minor border-post dispute with Georgia. But sources now tell RFE/RL that Nikolayev was dismissed for rejecting Yeltsin's advice to consider a merger of the Border Service with the FSB. Such a proposed merger would have contradicted Nikolayev's public pledges to reform the Border Service into a civil, but powerful service, in accordance with the 2010 development program already approved by Yeltsin.

Under Nikolayev, the influence and size of the Border Guard Service expanded dramatically. It acquired heavy armaments, including tanks. It set up its own flight school, counter-intelligence and intelligence branches, as well as a program for developing its own fleet to reinforce hundreds of coastal vessels the Service already operates. Since 1993, the Border Guard Service has grown to 220,000 servicemen. The FSB has fewer than 80,000 servicemen under its command.

Kremlin officials say a FSB-Border Guard Service merger could be expected to reduce spending - if, Border Guard heavy arms were given to the Defense Ministry. The Defense Ministry itself has several times tried to takeover the Border Guard Service.

Formally set up by Ivan the Terrible in 1571, Russia's Border Guards Service remained independent until the early 1920's, when it was engulfed by the Soviet state-security apparatus. In 1993, as Yeltsin was dismantling the KGB, he again set up an independent Border Guard Service.

The FSB-Border Guard merger inspires hope in some - fear in others.

"I'm glad this is happening...the chain is being restored," said Nikolai Leonov, former head of the KGB's Analytical Department. Ideally, Leonov said, the independent branches of the former KGB would be reunited, with the exception of the Foreign Intelligence Service. Leonov and another retired KGB General, Leonid Shebarshin, said the Foreign Intelligence Service should operate independently, as Western intelligence services do.

The former head of the FSB, current Justice Minister Sergei Stepashin said the FSB-Border Guard merger is "well-grounded and justified."

But, a top Russian human rights advocate, Valery Borshchev, calls the merger plan "alarming." Borshchev, who is also a State Duma deputy, said such a merger mean the return of "that most dangerous monster of all, who will not so much ensure the security of our state, as pose a danger to Russian citizens, as was the case in the past." Borshchev said the merger is only the beginning of an attempt to revive the KGB.



Simon Saradzhyan

Moscow, 28 January 1998 (RFE/RL) -- President Boris Yeltsin's decision to integrate the Federal Border Guard Service (FPS) into the Federal Security Service (FSB) has, so far, won few if any supporters among Russian borders guards. But, the action has inspired hope - and fear among those who thought the KGB was gone forever.

Moreover, even though official media already describe the merger as certain, border guard officials say it might still be averted.

"Don't forget that the decision is yet to be taken," cautioned chief of the Federal Border Guard Service's information office, Colonel Alexander Suvorov. Suvorov said one of the several draw backs of any formal alliance between his service and the FSB is the need to either reverse or to amend at least 12 federal laws. "It is a very complicated issue," said Suvorov.

Suvorov's colleagues were less cautious in their comments.

One Border Guard Service Colonel (anonymous) told RFE/RL, "I don't really understand why President Yeltsin would first approve the program of development of us as an independent service until (the year) 2010...and then 'subordinate' us to the FSB."

All of the Border Guard Service personnel interviewed said they believed their Service would not be in jeopardy had General Andrei Nikolayev remained in command. Nikolayev, once considered to be one of Russia's most promising statesmen and Yeltsin's long-time friend, was removed by Yeltsin last month.

Nikolayev's successor was named Monday: Nikolai Borduzha. But, now, Russian media are speculating that the current head of the FSB, Nikolai Kovalyov might be replaced by Nikolayev.

Last month, Russian media seemed to agree that the reason for Nikolayev's dismissal was based on a seemingly minor border-post dispute with Georgia. But sources now tell RFE/RL that Nikolayev was dismissed for rejecting Yeltsin's advice to consider a merger of the Border Service with the FSB. Such a proposed merger would have contradicted Nikolayev's public pledges to reform the Border Service into a civil, but powerful service, in accordance with the 2010 development program already approved by Yeltsin.

Under Nikolayev, the influence and size of the Border Guard Service expanded dramatically. It acquired heavy armaments, including tanks. It set up its own flight school, counter-intelligence and intelligence branches, as well as a program for developing its own fleet to reinforce hundreds of coastal vessels the Service already operates. Since 1993, the Border Guard Service has grown to 220,000 servicemen. The FSB has fewer than 80,000 servicemen under its command.

Kremlin officials say a FSB-Border Guard Service merger could be expected to reduce spending - if, Border Guard heavy arms were given to the Defense Ministry. The Defense Ministry itself has several times tried to takeover the Border Guard Service.

Formally set up by Ivan the Terrible in 1571, Russia's Border Guards Service remained independent until the early 1920's, when it was engulfed by the Soviet state-security apparatus. In 1993, as Yeltsin was dismantling the KGB, he again set up an independent Border Guard Service.

The FSB-Border Guard merger inspires hope in some - fear in others.

"I'm glad this is happening...the chain is being restored," said Nikolai Leonov, former head of the KGB's Analytical Department. Ideally, Leonov said, the independent branches of the former KGB would be reunited, with the exception of the Foreign Intelligence Service. Leonov and another retired KGB General, Leonid Shebarshin, said the Foreign Intelligence Service should operate independently, as Western intelligence services do.

The former head of the FSB, current Justice Minister Sergei Stepashin said the FSB-Border Guard merger is "well-grounded and justified."

But, a top Russian human rights advocate, Valery Borshchev, calls the merger plan "alarming." Borshchev, who is also a State Duma deputy, said such a merger mean the return of "that most dangerous monster of all, who will not so much ensure the security of our state, as pose a danger to Russian citizens, as was the case in the past." Borshchev said the merger is only the beginning of an attempt to revive the KGB.
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