Russia’s Foreign Ministry today warned that Georgia’s continued blockade of their mutual neighbor Abkhazia could end with “a serious armed incident.” Georgia’s Navy has been chasing cargo ships away from the Abkhaz Republic, and has recently captured two ships including an fuel tanker from Turkey.
Georgia doesn’t recognize the independence of Abkhazia and claims the ships are illegally entering its waters. Mehmet Ozturk, the captain of the captured Turkish fuel ship, has been sentenced to 24 years in prison by Georgia for attempting to bring fuel to the enclave.
Abkhazia has reacted with outrage at the blockade and threatened yesterday to sink any Georgian ships which attempt to raid their waters, likening the raid to an act of piracy. Georgia has called it an empty threat and indeed, it seems hard to imagine that the fledgling Abkhazia has the military muscle to fend off Georgia, which has been heavily supported by the US for years.
Abkhazia has enjoyed de facto independence for years, but only formally declared its independence following last August’s brief Russo-Georgian War. The status of Abkhazia and fellow enclave South Ossetia continues to be a source of tension between Russia and Georgia, and the blockade is only furthering the risk of another conflict.