Russia's strategic move: Withdrawing from Crimea?

Written by Jakob A. Overgaard

Oct.06 - 2023 12:43 PM CET

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

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Russia and the rebel region of Abkhazia in Georgia have allegedly agreed to construct a new permanent Russian naval base on the Black Sea coast in Abkhazia, as stated by the leader of Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania, to the Russian newspaper Izvestia. This claim has garnered attention from international media outlets.

Bzhania recently met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, Putin did not mention anything about the naval base. Neither Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov nor Abkhazian officials have commented on the matter, as noted by Reuters. Hence, the information regarding the naval base plans remains uncertain, even though, according to Bzhania, a contract has already been signed.

Speculations have arisen in the public sphere suggesting that Abkhazia might serve as an alternative location for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, which is reportedly withdrawing from Crimea.

A previous British intelligence report indicated that the operations of the Black Sea Fleet are increasingly moving away from Sevastopol in Crimea to the Black Sea coastal city of Novorossiysk. Similarly, the think tank ISW reported that Russia has relocated its vessels from Sevastopol.

Sevastopol has not only been a base but also a logistics center supplying materials for northern battles. The Black Sea Fleet plays a significant role in the broader Russian military forces. Currently, the Russian forces in Sevastopol are facing challenges as Ukraine has launched missile attacks against Russian naval vessels and the Sevastopol naval base.

Most of the world has not recognized Abkhazia as an independent state. Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia following Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry has commented on the naval base plans, calling it a “gross violation” of Georgia’s sovereignty, as reported by Reuters.

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