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06 Oct. 2023

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How and why is russia planning to use Abkhazia in the war with Ukraine?

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How and why is russia planning to use Abkhazia in the war with Ukraine?

After Aslan Bzhania's meeting with putin, the former announced the creation of a naval base on the russian-occupied territory of Georgia. Find out for what purposes russia plans to use Abkhazia and how it relates to Ukraine's strikes on Crimea

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The unrecognized "leader" of Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania, said that russia has signed an agreement to establish a permanent naval base on the Black Sea coast of the breakaway republic of Abkhazia, which is located on the territory of Georgia occupied by russia. 


"We have signed an agreement, and in the near future there will be a permanent base of the russian navy in the Ochamchira district," the russian newspaper Izvestia quoted Bzhania as saying.


According to the "leader," this step will strengthen the defense capabilities of both Abkhazia and russia. kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment officially, noting that these issues "are within the competence of the Ministry of Defense." Instead, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned russia's decision.


"Such actions constitute a gross violation of Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and another provocative attempt to legitimize the illegal occupation of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region," the Foreign Ministry said on October 5.


The ministry also called on russia to "respect its international obligations" under the agreement signed on August 12, 2008, and to stop occupying and using internationally recognized regions of Georgia. 


However, we all know how russia treats international law under "agreements."


Occupied Abkhazia: what is happening in the region controlled by russia?


russian troops seized the territory of Abkhazia 30 years ago. The last days of September 1993 were decisive for Georgia in the war, as it was then that the country lost actual control over the region's autonomy. The last piece of "Abkhazian land" in the Kodori Gorge, which Georgian troops held until 2008, was eventually ceded to russia almost without a fight.


Thus, in 2008, after the August war, russia "recognized the independence" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite the fact that almost the entire world considers these regions to be Georgian territory, and the West accused russia of illegal annexation. In addition to russia, the independence of Georgian territories has been recognized only in Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru and Syria.


At the same time, the first talks about a russian military base in Ochamiri began in 2009. According to Reuters, even then NATO expressed concern about this, as three Black Sea countries are members of the Alliance, including Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.




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Why does russia need a naval base in Abkhazia and how is it connected to Ukraine?


Strikes on strategic targets in Crimea have become routine for russia. In addition, having almost no ships, Ukraine has forced the Black Sea Fleet to defend itself and withdraw its ships from their permanent home bases in Sevastopol to Feodosia and Novorossiysk. This information is confirmed by numerous media outlets publishing satellite images, as well as the UK Ministry of Defense. In addition, the ministry noted that russian aviation will now have to fight the Ukrainian army of marine drones.


Thus, Reuters believes that russia is forced to look for alternative locations for basing its fleet, as Sevastopol is no longer a safe place. In addition, by creating a new naval base on the site of the former USSR base, russia aims to expand its presence along the Black Sea coast, including towards Turkey.


ISW Report on russia's Military Base in Abkhazia


The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) believes that even if russia builds a naval base in unrecognized Abkhazia, it will likely remain small. The chosen area is unsuitable for the construction of naval infrastructure. The coast consists mostly of sandy beaches, and the port near Ochamchiri has limited infrastructure.


"The existing port is not suitable to become the main base for the russian Black Sea Fleet, but the russian military can expand the existing naval infrastructure and use the port of Ochamchiri as a support base in the future," the experts note in their report.


Therefore, russia will be able to increase its presence on the Black Sea coast, but this step is not of strategic importance and will only aggravate the situation with Georgia, which is already beginning to talk about "possible ways to liberate the occupied territories."


We remind you! Ukraine's climate smoothly transitions the country into the cold season. But experts believe that the Ukrainian Armed Forces will not stop fighting in winter, and spring will be decisive in this war. Read more about how the cold will affect the situation on the battlefield and what to expect in the spring in our previous article.


Want to know more? Read the latest news and useful materials about Ukraine and the world in the News section.


Photo: Amos Chapple




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