Russia plans to establish a permanent naval base on the Black Sea coast in Abkhazia, a breakaway region of Georgia, as its fleet in Crimea faces ongoing threats from Ukraine. Moscow’s move has raised concerns and criticism from Tbilisi, which views the move as a severe violation of its sovereignty.
Georgia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has strongly criticised Russia's actions, labeling them as "another provocative attempt" to legitimise Russia's occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia calls on Russia to respect its international obligations and adhere to the cease-fire agreement reached in 2008 through EU mediation.
Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili said "this is a direct consequence of the occupation, and it's undoubtedly a continuation of that unlawful course."
Abkhazia's leader, Aslan Bzhania, confirmed the signing of the agreement, stating that a modern missile ship had arrived as part of the deal. This naval base is expected to be located in the Ochamchire region of Abkhazia.
Bzhania also reaffirmed his backing for Abkhazia's engagement in the "Union State of Belarus and Russia", while also expressing hopes for “international recognition”.
Russia already maintains a significant military presence in Abkhazia, including the 7th military base and a Federal Security Service border department. The existing Russian military base in Gali, along with others in nearby villages, has been a source of ongoing concern for Georgia.
In 2008, Russia recognized Abkhazia as an "independent republic" following the Russian-Georgian war, which began in the Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia). Russia also recognised South Ossetia as an independent entity. Most of the international community, however, continues to recognize Abkhazia as part of Georgia, excluding a handful of countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru, and Syria.
Reports of Russia's intention to establish a base in Ochamchire first surfaced in 2009, raising concerns among Nato members. This move is seen as a potentially significant part of Russia's efforts to diversify its military presence beyond Sevastopol in Crimea, which has been a contentious issue since Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
There have been recent reports that Russia is withdrawing most of its Black Sea fleet from its primary base in annexed Crimea due to Ukraine's military actions there.