Tbilisi Condemns Moscow's Reported Plan To Establish Naval Base In Breakaway Abkhazia

TBILISI -- Georgia's Foreign Ministry has condemned reports that Russia plans to establish a naval base in the breakaway region of Abkhazia, calling it a "blatant violation" of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The de facto president of Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania, was quoted by the Izvestia newspaper on October 5 as saying that he and Russian President Vladimir Putin had signed an agreement in late September, according to which "a permanent base of the Russian Navy will appear in the nearest future in [Abkhazia’s] Ochamchira district."

"We call on the Russian Federation to comply with its international obligations, implement the cease-fire agreement concluded on August 12, 2008, through the mediation of the European Union, and end the illegal occupation of integral regions of Georgia," Georgia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the interview was published, adding that the international community supports the South Caucasus nation’s territorial integrity.

In August 2008, Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and Georgia's other breakaway region, South Ossetia, following a five-day Russian-Georgian war. Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia in 1992, a move which led to all-out war with Tbilisi.

The West has called the move effectively an annexation of the two regions by Russia. Only Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru, and Syria have recognized Abkhazia as independent.

Moscow keeps thousands of its troops in the breakaway regions and in 2009 talk of a similar naval base was quickly criticized by NATO, which has three members -- Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania -- that are Black Sea littoral states.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on Bzhania's statement.

"I cannot comment this. The issues related to our troops' location, our vessels, our units are the competence of the Defense Ministry," Peskov said.

Bzhania's comments come the same day that The Wall Street Journal reported Moscow has withdrawn most of its Black Sea fleet from Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula it illegally annexed in 2014, because of constant attacks by Ukraine.

Peskov said the Kremlin had no comment on the WSJ report as it was a matter for the Defense Ministry.

Since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine launched in February last year, the Georgian government has strived to maintain a balanced relationship with Moscow.

It has stated support for Ukraine and condemned Russia's invasion but hasn't joined economic sanctions imposed on Moscow by many Western countries.

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Key Words: Russia, Russian Navy, Black Sea, Georgia, Abkhazia

Georgia Map adapted from cia.gov image