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The Lithuanian Border Guard; Paluknys, September 11, 2013

The Baltic States, part 4; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The flying branch of the Lithuanian Border Guard was established in 1992. Lithuania was for a long time a part of the Soviet Union and didn’t had an own air force. The Border Guard is now equipped with several modern patrol helicopters such as the light size EC120, the light size EC135 and the medium size EC145.

The Lithuanian State Border Guard Service (Valstybės Sienos apsaugos Tarnyba) is an organization which is a responsibility of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Border Guard is responsible for monitoring and securing the Lithuanian borders on land and at the Baltic Sea. Lithuania has become a Schengen country since 2007 and has the task to monitor the European borders with Belarus and the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia since then. Lithuania became an independent country since February 16, 1918. It was difficult for the country to monitor the borders because the borders with neighboring countries were changing at that time. Initially, the newly formed Border Guard was under supervision of the Department of Defense. The first border regiment was finally established on February 1, 1920. The defense minister Jonas Šimkus declared the regiment operational in the region of Klaipėda at June 29, 1922. The Border Guard regiments of the ministry of defense were disbanded and the task was transferred to the Ministry of Internal Affairs on January 1, 1924. The Border Guard consisted completely out of policemen during the first Soviet occupation in 1933. The crew continued until the Soviet Union occupied the country definitive in June 1940. The Soviets quickly disbanded the Border Guard, because the Red Army itself took over this task. The Red Army guarded the borders especially with Nazi Germany during this period. The Soviets occupied Lithuania again after the Second World War. The only country which was monitored on its borders with Lithuania was the People's Republic of Poland, because it was not a part of the Soviet Union.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Lithuania became an independent country on March 11, 1990. The country had lived in the meanwhile more than 50 years under the Soviet regime. On April 3, 1990, there was a resolution adopted by the Lithuanian Parliament stating Lithuania had to set up a new Border Guard. The purpose of this Border Guard was monitoring the boundaries of the new country. On September 10, 1990, there was

also a statement adopted by Parliament to place the new Border Guard under the ministry of defense. It was decided to guard the Economic borders of Lithuania as well with this Resolution. More than 61 border posts were founded on October 10, 1990. The first of these new border posts were operational on November 19, 1990. Due to a lack of qualified staff, not all posts were immediately manned the way it was intended in the first place. The former Soviet security forces conducted several charges against the often not well prepared Lithuanian Border Guards. Border Guard posts were destroyed or burned and often also cars were damaged and stolen. There were several fights between Russian forces and the Lithuanian Border Guards; often Lithuanians were mistreated. On May 19, 1991, this resulted in one dead officer and one seriously injured Border Guard on the border with Belarus. The attacks on Lithuanian border posts were continued until the coup in Moscow on August 23, 1991. After this turbulent period, more peace came to the Lithuanian border posts.

The Department of Defense made the Border Guard at full strength when the last Soviet troops had left the country on August 31. The Border Guard became in the meanwhile a fully independent force within the Lithuanian organization. On July 18, 1994, the Lithuanian Government adopted a new resolution which stated the Ministry of Defense would not be responsible for the Border Guard anymore. The Border Guard was from that moment part of the police force of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The monitoring of the Lithuanian borders would therefore be carried out by the Lithuanian Border Police from that moment. The Convention on the re-establishment of the State Border between Lithuania and Latvia was signed on June 29, 1993. It required considerable diplomatic efforts to sign an agreement about the border with Belarus on February 6, 1995. A similar treaty was signed in the same year with Poland. The treaty on the delimitation of the border between Lithuania and the Russian Federation was signed during a summit in Moscow on October 24, 1997. A quiet period took place for the Lithuanian Border Guard after these treaties were signed. Lithuania became a member state of the European Union on May 1, 2004. The first former Soviet states entered the European Union with the accession of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in 2004. As of December 21, 2007, Lithuania became a member state of the Schengen Convention. Controlling the borders with Latvia and Poland became a lot easier, because they are also Schengen Members.

From 1992, the new Border Guard of Lithuania received 3 Kamov Ka-26 "Hoodlum" helicopters for patrol flights. The flying branch of the Border Guard was stationed at Paluknys; this airfield is located south of Vilnius. The light reconnaissance helicopters were deployed to patrol the borders of the country. In 2001, a Cessna 172RG was added to the Border Guard fleet. The Cessna was the first and until now only fixed wing aircraft in the fleet. In 2002, 2 Eurocopter EC120 Kolibri helicopters were purchased. This light single-engine helicopters entered service to replace the outdated Ka-26s. The 3 Ka-26s were eventually phased out in the summer of 2003. One of these helicopters is now the gate guard at the Border Guard complex at Paluknys. In 2006, the fleet was more than doubled with the arrival of another 3 helicopters. There were 2 Eurocopter EC135T2+ helicopters and 1 Eurocopter EC145 purchased. The 2 EC135s are both equipped with special infrared sensors to assist during various search and support actions. The EC135 and EC145 helicopters have a bigger operational range compared to the EC120; the Border Guard has therefore more than doubled its capacity with these helicopters. Besides the purchase of these new helicopters the complex of the Border Guard was also significantly modernized. The Lithuanian Border Guard is therefore with this material able to perform its tasks.

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