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Ukraine’s border guards see no military threat from Transnistria

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Lines of cars stand at the Kuchurgan crossing point on Ukraine's border with Moldova's unrecognized republic of Transnistria on Aug. 30.
Photo by Volodymyr Petrov

Ukrainian border guards on the border with Moldova's unrecognized breakaway state, Transnistria, do not feel under imminent attack, they told the Kyiv Post. This is despite the Russian troop presence kilometers away from their checkpoint of Kuchurgan and the recent Russian military exercises in the territory.

On Sept. 9, Transnistrian officials announced their intention to officially join Russia. Transnistria’s president Yevgeny Shevchuk said in a statement that Tranistria should do so by Nov. 1. Moldova who condemns any moves by their unrecognized republic to move closer to Moscow said that Russia was recruiting Transnistrian men into the Russian army earlier this year.

There have been no military incursions across the border since the war with Russia began two years ago, according to Colonel Valeriy Hontar, the deputy commander of Belhorod-Dniester border area, and they are not worried.

“They weren’t prepared. No one was expecting it,” Hontar told Kyiv Post, describing how the Russian incursion was able to occur in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014.

The border guards use special heat sensitive cameras positioned on towers and drone survellience to guard the border. So far it has only been used to catch smugglers or those illegally trying to cross the border. A big issue for those who live in Transnistria is that their passports aren’t internationally recognized. Those who are unable to obtain Russian, Ukrainian or Moldovan citizenship sometimes try to bypass the checkpoints.

Importing goods from the Transnistrian republic into Ukraine was banned to curtail smuggling. Traders are only allowed to export from Kurchugan. Hontar demonstrated this by opening up several trucks driving over the border into Ukraine.

The Ukrainian border service has a series of border protection points, not used to control goods or people, stretched out across its border with the so-called republic. Each control point is equipped with weapons and jail cells. The border guards who survey the border day and night are all required to spend several months patrolling the area beforehand, said Deputy Colonel Serhiy Vovk, the commander of the Stepanovka border point.

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