Press Digest: EU countries erect new border fences to ward off migrants

Latvian border guard Arturs Lazarevs drives a quad during a patrol at the EU external border with Russia near Opoli. Source: Reuters

Latvian border guard Arturs Lazarevs drives a quad during a patrol at the EU external border with Russia near Opoli. Source: Reuters

RBTH presents a selection of views from leading Russian media on international events, featuring reports on the fence-building frenzy on European borders and instant messaging service Viber’s compliance with Russian regulations on personal data storage, as well as an interview with Russia’s non-proliferation and arms control head about nuclear threats and U.S. plans to deploy missile launchers in Romania.

European countries busy building fences

EU countries have entered a fence race, constructing barriers on their borders to ward off “endless flows” of refugees, the independent online publication Svobodnaya Pressa reports.

For example, on Oct. 17, Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis announced that Riga intends to build a 90-kilometer fence along its border with Russia, also the EU’s outer border.

“It is intended to prevent illegal immigration,” Kozlovskis explained.

On the same day, Hungary sealed its border with Croatia, forcing thousands of refugees trying to reach Germany to instead head via Slovenia. Then the leader of the German police trade union, Rainer Wendt, told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that a fence should be built along the German border.

“If we thus seal our borders, Austria too will seal its border with Slovenia. This is the effect we need,” he said.

“Fences surrounding European countries is a sign of political disarray in the EU,” said Mikhail Alexandrov, a leading expert with the center of military and political studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

“There is another way out: to strengthen the border at the other end, from the side of neighboring countries. That was the route chosen by Russia. Inside the CIS, Moscow has never sought to create internal barriers but urged CIS member states to strengthen controls at their own borders,” he said.

“Now, for example, Tajikistan is busy strengthening its border with Russia, while Kyrgyzstan was admitted to the Eurasian Union only on the condition that it will use financial aid from Russia to sort out its border controls.”


Russia’s non-proliferation head: Americans are on the brink of a new violation

The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s non-proliferation and arms control department, Mikhail Ulyanov, has given an interview to the Kommersant business daily about nuclear proliferation threats.

On the subject of cooperation between Russia and the U.S., Ulyanov said that “today there are no signs that the cooling in international relations, including in relations between Russia and the U.S., may result in nuclear weapons having a bigger role to play and somebody starting to brandish ‘the nuclear stick’.”

“In fact, despite the political disagreements, we and the Americans do not cooperate so badly when it comes to disarmament and non-proliferation. One proof of that is that our countries are successfully implementing the START treaty,” said Ulyanov.

Commenting on U.S. plans to deploy MK-41 missile launders in Romania, Ulyanov said: “We have no doubt that the Americans are on the brink of a new violation [of the INF Treaty].”

“After MK-41 launchers have thousands of times been used to launch Tomahawk intermediate-range cruise missiles, there is no doubt that they are intended specifically for this weapon. At sea, they can be used only for launching missiles from ships, while their relocation to land is incompatible with the requirements of the INF treaty.”

Speaking about global stability, Ulyanov recalled the principle set in the OSCE Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security: “One should not try to strengthen one’s security at the expense of the security of others.” 


Viber moves its servers to Russia

The administration of the messaging service Viber, which is very popular in Russia, has placed its servers storing users’ personal data in Russia, in line with the new regulations, the daily broadsheet Izvestiya reports, citing the company’s Moscow representative Yelena Gracheva.

“Users’ telephone numbers, logins and passwords will be stored in Russia. We do not store messages as they are saved on users’ devices,” Gracheva explained.

Under amendments to the law on personal data, which came into force on Sept. 1, 2015, internet companies must store Russian users’ data on Russian territory. It has already been announced that eBay, PayPal and AliExpress are moving their servers to Russia.

The head of the Russian association of electronic communications, Sergei Plugotarenko, says that most messengers that register users’ accounts “should make an effort to place their databases with Russian users’ personal data on Russian territory.”

“However,” he said, “as we all remember from the requirements of the law and the guidelines issued by the Communications Ministry and the Roskomnadzor watchdog, there is no ban either on cross-border transmission of personal data (provided they are collected, processed and stored on Russian territory) or the operation of dispersed cloud systems and services.”

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