State Border Guard Service (Lithuania)

State Border Guard Service (Lithuania)

The State Border Guard Service of Lithuania is the organisation charged with controlling and maintaining the Lithuanian Border.

History of SBGS

1918-1940

Following the Declaration of indipendence on February 16,1918 the state had to ensure its border protection. This was a difficult task to fulfil, because the borders were changing (Lithuanian authority over the Klaipėda region was restored, and a demarcation line was established on the border with Poland), and the bodies protecting the border were changing as well (the customs and patrol guards, militia and army).

The formation of the first border regiment was started on 1 February 1920. On 26 January 1922, the Lithuanian defence minister, Jonas Šimkus, issued an order designating 29 June as Border Regiment Day. At that time, border regiments protected the border, and the State Border Police was formed in the Klaipėda region on 18 June 1923. Later, border regiments, units of the Ministry of Defence, were disbanded, and the border police of the Ministry of the Interior took over the protection of the state border on 1 January 1924. Before the first Soviet occupation, the number of Lithuanian border police was not large: 1,656 policemen in 1931 and 1,934 in 1933.

This strength was maintained until June 1940 when the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania. After that, some border guards were subject to political persecution, the border police was disbanded, and the Red Army took control of the Lithuanian border with Germany. Near the end of World War II, the Soviets occupied Lithuania for the second time. Throughout their rule, they protected only the Lithuanian border with Poland. Together with its independence, Lithuania lost its state border protection system.

Fight for Independence 1990-1991

After Lithuania restored its independence on March 11,1990, it was confronted with a task, which was as important as that in 1918. Lithuania had to ensure the protection and inviolability of its borders. By a resolution of 3 April 1990, the Supreme Soviet, Lithuanian parliament, assigned the Council of Ministers the task of establishing the Department of Defence thus initiating the formation of new state border guards. On 10 September 1990, the Government adopted a resolution with a view to forming services at the Ministry of Defence that were to ensure the economic protection of Lithuanian borders. On 15 October 1990, the Department of Defence formed a commission with mandate of enlisting personnel into the border guard service. Border guarding was given a legislative foundation when the Supreme Soviet passed the provisional law on the frontier guard service on 8 November 1990. In accordance with an order by the Department of Defence, border guards began to perform service at all of the 64 border crossing points on 19 November 1990.

Soviet security forces carried out a campaign of oppression and terror against unarmed Lithuanian border guards until the coupe d’etate was attempted in Moscow on 23 August 1991. The activity of OMON, Soviet paratroopers and their collaborators was terrifying: border guards’ premises were burnt and wrecked, cars stolen and bombed, and defenders of their homeland’s borders beaten and defamed. On 19 May 1991, Gintaras Žagunis, an officer at the Krakūnai border crossing point at the Lithuanian-Belarus border, was shot dead while on duty. Gintaras Žagunis fell victim to revenge by the Soviets and was the first border guard who lost his life after Lithuanian independence was restored. On 31 July 1991, Lithuania was horrified by a massacre at Medininkai where 7 defenders of the Lithuanian border were murdered.

From 1992 till nowadays

The Ministry of Defence issued an order by which the Frontier Guard Service was renamed as the State Border Guard Service, starting 6 August 1992. When the last Soviet soldier left Lithuania on 31 August 1993, the State Border Guard Service was already well established. On 18 July 1994, the Government adopted a resolution that re-structured the State Border Guard Service at the Ministry of Defence into the Border Police Department at the Ministry of the Interior. As during the period between the two world wars, guarding of the Lithuanian borders became a duty of the border police.

After the system of border guarding was restored, the legal status of the state border had to be defined and the border itself demarcated. The Treaty on Restoration of the State Border between the Republic of Lithuania and the Republic of Latvia was signed on 29 June 1993. It required a considerable diplomatic effort to conclude and sign a treaty on the state border with Belarus on 6 February 1995. A similar treaty was signed with Poland the same year. The treaty on delimitation of the state border between the Republic of Lithuania and the Russian Federation that was signed during a summit in Moscow on 24 October 1997, was probably the most outstanding achievement of Lithuanian diplomats.

On 1 April 1997, the border police was re-structured. 8 border police districts were either newly formed or re-organised. Of these, 7 districts guard the state border, and the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant Security Unit secured the nuclear power plant near the town of Ignalina.

On 31 March 1999, the then Lithuanian minister of the interior, Stasys Šedbaras, issued an order to re-establish the celebration of the Border Guards’ Day. Lithuanian border guards celebrate their professional holiday on 29 June. The same year saw the first celebration of the Border Guards’ Day in Vilnius. In the Basilica of the Grand Cathedral, the first combat flags were sanctified and presented to four districts, Vilnius, Lazdijai, Coast Guard and Šiauliai. When the Border Guards’ Day was celebrated for the second time on 29 June 2000, combat flags were presented to further three districts, Pagėgiai, Ignalina and Varėna. Today, all of the districts that physically guard the state border have their combat flags.

On 10 October 2000, the Seimas adopted the Law on the State Border Guard Service and addressed the Government with a proposal to re-organise the Border Police Department in six months. By its resolution of 22 February 2001, the Government decided to re-organise the Border Police Department into the State Border Guard Service at the Ministry of the Interior. When preparing for the re-organisation, a large number of legal acts were adopted which regulate the activity of the State Border Guard Service. Of these, the most prominent are the mentioned Law on the State Border Guard Service and the Law on the State Border and Protection Thereof. Prior to the re-organisation, the status of the Border Police Department and service in the border police were regulated by the laws on the police, on state service and others as well as by the Statute of Service in the System of the Interior. These legal acts were more about the general activity of the police. After the re-organisation was complete, the State Border Guard Service began to perform its border guard functions starting 1 May 2001.

References

[http://www.pasienis.lt/lit/English Official page of State Border Guard Service of Lithuania (English)]


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