Last week, Russia reported signed a deal with the breakaway Georgia region of Abkhazia to place a permanent naval base along the Black Sea, an agreement the Georgia foreign ministry is calling a “gross violation” of its sovereignty, Reuters reported.
Aslan Bzhania, the Russian-backed “president” of Abkhazia told the newspaper Izvestiya last Thursday that after meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin the day before, the two had reached an agreement to place a permanent Russian naval base in the Ochamchira district “in the near future.”
The former Soviet Union had a naval base in Ochamchira before its collapse.
Bzhania said the base would increase the defense capability of both the Russian Federation and Abkhazia and vowed that this cooperation “will continue.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to answer questions about the reported deal, referring reporters to the Russian Defense Ministry.
In 2008, Russia recognized two breakaway regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as independent states after Russian forces repelled an attempt by Georgia to retake South Ossetia.
Western officials accused Moscow of effectively annexing the breakaway regions after it was reported in 2009 that a Russian base had been established in Ochamchira.
While most of the world continues to recognize Abkhazia as part of Georgia, Nicaragua, Nauru, Syria, and Venezuela have sided with Russia and recognized it as an independent state.
In response to “President” Bzhania’s announcement, Georgia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Russia’s integration of the Abkhazia region represents “a gross violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.”
A possible naval base along the Black Sea in Abkhazia could indicate that Moscow is looking to find alternatives to Sevastopol while simultaneously expanding its military presence near Turkey.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the bulk of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet had been withdrawn from its main base in Crimea due to relentless Ukrainian strikes.