Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh says that his government has agreed in principle to allow Russia to create a naval base at their Black Sea port at Ochamchira. The construction of the base is expected to begin sometime later this year.
The move will likely shore up the nation’s independence bid, having formally broken away from Georgia after August’s brief Georgia-Russia war. Russia was the first to recognize Abkhazia’s independence claims, and while Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has promised to reclaim them as a Georgian province the permanent presence of the Russian military will likely make that impossible. Tensions between Georgia and Abkhazia have remained high since the war, and the Georgian media still refers to the Abkhaz government as a “puppet regime.”
The base may be of increasing importance to Russia if the Ukrainian government succeeds in ousting their navy from their long-time base in Sevastopol. With NATO aspirations, Ukraine hopes to replace the Russian Black Sea Fleet with a NATO naval base, and while Ochamchira is no substitute for the Crimean base it does underscore Russia’s reluctance to abandon the Black Sea entirely as NATO expands eastward.
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