Russia has signed a deal for a permanent naval base on the Black Sea coast of the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, according to its leader. The base, to be located in the Ochamchira region, aims to increase the defense capability of both Russia and Abkhazia.
The agreement was announced by Aslan Bzhania, the self-styled president of Russian-backed Abkhazia, after he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. Bzhania said that the base would be operational in the near future and that there were also other aspects of military cooperation that he could not disclose.
The move has triggered criticism from Georgia, which considers Abkhazia as part of its sovereign territory. Georgia’s foreign ministry said that the deal was a “gross violation” of its sovereignty and territorial integrity and called on the international community to condemn it.
Abkhazia and another breakaway region, South Ossetia, have been under Russian control since 2008, when Russia and Georgia fought a brief war over the disputed territories. Russia recognized them as independent states, but only a few other countries have followed suit.
The news of the Russian base in Abkhazia comes amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, which has escalated since 2022. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, based in Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula that Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, has been repeatedly targeted by Ukrainian forces. The Wall Street Journal reported that Russia had withdrawn most of its fleet from Crimea due to Ukrainian attacks.
Some analysts have suggested that Russia is seeking alternative bases on the Black Sea coast to secure its naval presence and expand its influence towards Turkey. Three of the Black Sea littoral states are NATO members – Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania.