by Kateryna Mishchenko

The Abkhaz leader, Aslan Bžania, announced, “we have signed an agreement, and soon there will be a permanent deployment of the Russian Navy in the Ochamchira region.” He emphasized that this move aims to bolster the defense capabilities of both Russia and Abkhazia. The announcement followed a meeting between the Abkhaz leader and Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

The Kremlin has refused to confirm information about plans to build a permanent deployment point for the Russian fleet in Abkhazia. “I cannot comment on this. Questions related to the deployment of our units, our ships, our units are within the competence of the Ministry of Defense,” said Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of the Russian President.

After the August 2008 war, Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and another breakaway Georgian region, South Ossetia. The international community, particularly the West, accused Russia of annexing Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Concerns were raised by NATO in 2009 when discussions about a Russian base in Ochamchira first emerged. NATO members Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania, all Black Sea states, expressed their apprehensions. Most countries recognize Abkhazia as part of Georgia, with only Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru, and Syria acknowledging its independence.

Presently, the Ochamchira port functions as a base for Russian Border Guard patrol boats, responsible for guarding the self-proclaimed borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. These territories are viewed by Tbilisi as Georgian lands occupied by Russia. The exact number and types of Russian vessels in Ochamchira remain unknown, but there are reports suggesting that dredging work will allow the port to host ships with a displacement of up to 13,000 tons.

Georgian authorities, along with the opposition, strongly criticized Russia’s plans, condemning them as a gross violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity. There is a broader concern in Tbilisi that a Russian naval base in Abkhazia could pose a threat not only to Georgia but also to the entire Black Sea region. The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern over the Russian occupying regime’s announcement of an additional military base on the occupied territory of Georgia.

Ukrainian intelligence suggests that the primary objective of these activities is to transform Ochamchira into a secure harbor for Russian Black Sea Fleet ships. The Russian Black Sea Fleet, previously based in Sevastopol, Crimea (annexed by Russia in 2014), has faced multiple attacks by Ukrainian forces since the start of the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Recent Ukrainian assaults in occupied Crimea have resulted in the loss of several Russian warships and a submarine. Kyiv contends that, given these circumstances, the command of the Black Sea Fleet appears to have decided to relocate surviving vessels to more secure ports. Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, stated that due to the actions of the Ukrainian defense forces, the Russian Black Sea Fleet lost control of the northwest part of the Black Sea and partially withdrew from Crimea. Ukraine is prepared to confront Russian ships in other locations, including the base in occupied Georgia – stated Zelensky during an address to participants in the second parliamentary summit of the Crimean Platform, held on October 24 in Prague.

Cover photo ©FOTOGRIN