Ukraine Spending $640 Million to Build Fence Along Russian, Belarusian Borders

Following the influx of migrants at Belarus' border with European Union countries, Ukraine said it will build a 1,550-mile fence along its borders with Belarus and Russia, the Associated Press report.

Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Denys Monastyrskiy said funds for the fence should be gathered next year, with the project's cost being an estimated 17 billion hryvnas, or $640 million.

"Building a fence, a net and barbed wire, with a total coverage by surveillance and alarm systems, along the entire border...is the most rational decision," Monastyrskiy said, speaking in the Ukrainian parliament.

On Friday, Ukrainian authorities reported intercepting a group of 15 Middle Eastern migrants attempting to cross illegally from Belarus. Though it was the first incident of migrants trying to cross into Ukraine rather than an EU country since the buildup of migrants in Belarus, the Ukrainian government is taking no chances.

AP reported that Ukrainian authorities plan to conduct military exercises in the next two weeks to prepare for any future migrants attempting to cross.

In addition to the fence, Ukrainian authorities also want to dig ditches, about 13 feet wide and 6.5 feet deep, in the open parts of the borders with Belarus and Russia.

"Our key goal is to stop and contain a possible mass influx of illegal migrants," Monastyrskiy said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

migrants, Belarus, border
Hundreds of Iraqis returned home Thursday from Belarus after abandoning their hopes of reaching the European Union, a repatriation that came after tensions at Poland's eastern border, where thousands of migrants became stuck in a cold and soggy forest. Above, migrants settle in the logistics center in the checkpoint Kuznitsa at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, on November 19, 2021. Leonid Shcheglov/BelTA via AP

Polish authorities said Friday there are no more migrants camping along the Belarus side of the European Union's eastern border, but attempts at illegally crossing into the bloc's territory are continuing and becoming more aggressive.

Around 50 migrants got through a fence into Poland on Thursday, Anna Michalska, a spokeswoman for Poland's Border Guard said. They included a family of five who said they wanted to stay and live in Poland, opening a procedure toward settlement. The others will have to return to Belarus, Michalska said.

Two other large groups of migrants were prevented from entering. Some migrants have thrown stones and used branches to hit Polish border guards.

Hundreds of Iraqis flew back home Thursday from Belarus after abandoning their hopes of reaching the EU.

Still, many migrants hoping to reach European soil remained in a heated warehouse that Belarus recently made available near the border. The migrants had been camping in a cold and wet forest since November 8.

Tensions flared at the Poland-Belarus border in recent days, with about 2,000 people trapped between forces from the two countries. The U.N. refugee agency says about half the migrants at the border area were women and children.

The standoff set alarm bells ringing in the region. The West has accused Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko of using the migrants as pawns to destabilize the EU in retaliation for its sanctions on his authoritarian regime. Belarus denies engineering the crisis, which has seen migrants entering the country since last summer and then trying to cross into Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Ukraine, which borders both Belarus and Russia, said Friday it would build a 2,500-kilometer (1,550-mile) fence along its border with those neighbors to help fend off any illegal influx of migrants.

Ukraine, migrants, protest
Ukrainian officials have decided to build a fence along its borders with Belarus and Russia to avoid a migrant crisis like the one in Belarus. Above, Ukrainian nationalists are holding posters and burning smoke flares in a protest outside the Belarusian Embassy in Kyiv on November 10, 2021, to support Poland in the migrant crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border. Photo by Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images