Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed Thursday that the nation’s government still plans to build its so-called Great Wall of Ukraine across a 1,250-mile stretch of its border with Russia, according to a report. Ukraine will reportedly set aside 300 million hryvni (US$12.8 million) to begin engineering work on border defenses this year.
“We have partially allocated the funding for this project. It remains a priority for the government,” Poroshenko told reporters in Kharkiv, according to the Ukrainian Independent Information Agency (UNIAN). “At the same time, today our main task is to build defensive fortifications on the line of contact with the illegal armed groups in the Donbas [a region of eastern Ukraine].”
The Ukrainian government has earmarked more than 800 million hryvni (US$34 million) for defensive structures in the Donbas, where fighting has raged between government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels since April 2014. More than 6,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the United Nations. More than a million more have been driven from their homes.
Ukrainian and Western leaders have repeatedly accused Russia of sending equipment and troops across the border to support separatist elements in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has denied these allegations.
Construction on the Great Wall of Ukraine will begin in earnest in April, said Oleh Slobodyan, assistant chairman of the Ukrainian State Border Service. Workers had purportedly dug more than 85 miles of anti-tank trenches and set up defensive obstacles as of this month.
Ukrainian officials first proposed the Great Wall in October to prevent Russian tanks from crossing the border, Vocativ reported. The structure would be built from steel, crowned with barbed wire and manned by soldiers with state-of-the-art surveillance equipment, the Daily Beast reported.
It’s unclear how Ukraine will afford the project, even with financial aid from the European Union. The nation’s economy requires billions in foreign aid to remain functional and recently received a $17.5 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund.
The financial difficulties and ongoing hostilities with rebels have eroded Poroshenko’s base of support. A recent survey found that 58 percent of Ukrainians disapproved of his performance as president.