Russia to build naval base in breakaway Georgian region

AFP , Thursday 5 Oct 2023

Russia will set up a naval base on the Black Sea coast of a separatist region in Georgia, its leader said in an interview Thursday, after mounting Ukrainian attacks on Russian warships.

FILE- A Russian naval vessel sits in the Black Sea near Sukhumi, the capital of the Georgia s breakaway Abkhazia region, on November 21, 2008. AFP


The announcement from the leader of the breakaway region of Abkhazia came on the back of several attacks on Russia's Black Sea fleet that have embarrassed the Kremlin.

Tensions have escalated on the key waterway since July, when Russia exited a deal guaranteeing safe passage for cargo ships to and from Ukraine's Black Sea ports.

"We have signed an agreement, and in the near future there will be a permanent point of deployment for the Russian navy in the Ochamchire district," Abkhazia's separatist leader Aslan Bzhania told pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia in an interview published Thursday.

He said the aim of the deal was to "increase the defence capability both of Russia and Abkhazia" and added that "this kind of cooperation will continue, because this safeguards the fundamental interests of both Abkhazia and Russia. And security is above all".

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he was unable to comment.

"Questions related to the deployment of our troops and our ships -- these are for the defence ministry," he told reporters.

Russia and Georgia fought a war in 2008, after which Moscow recognised the independence of Abkhazia and another Moscow-backed separatist region, South Ossetia.

Russia has stationed permanent military bases in both regions.

 'Flagrant violation'

Georgian authorities said the plan was "a flagrant violation of Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity."

"We express concern over the statement of Russia's occupation regime in Sukhumi regarding the establishment of an additional Russian military base on Georgia's occupied territory," the foreign ministry added in a statement.

Georgia, an ex-Soviet country in the South Caucasus, has for years pushed for integration into the European Union, a process that accelerated after a brief war with Russia in 2008.

But Georgian authorities have been accused by the opposition of flirting with the Kremlin.

Bzhania visited Russia this week to meet with President Vladimir Putin.

During a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the separatist leader voiced support for Russia's offensive in Ukraine.

"You can be sure that we are with you to the end," he told Lavrov, according to Russian news agencies.

Ukraine last month struck the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea fleet on the annexed Crimean peninsula, in a major humiliation for Moscow.

Kyiv said it killed the fleet's commander in the cruise missile strike, a claim it rolled back on after Russia released images showing the official attending a meeting of defence officials.

Russian media, citing military and satellite imagery, suggested that Moscow has begun withdrawing its warships from Crimea in the wake of several attacks.

The British defence ministry said earlier this week that the Black Sea fleet's "activities" were increasingly being moved to a Russian naval base further east.

Warships are "likely relocating to Novorossiysk in the face of threats to Sevastopol," it said on social media.

Short link: