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Russia commences construction of naval base in occupied Abkhazia

The base, revealed through satellite imagery and intelligence reports, raises regional tensions and underscores Moscow’s strategic moves in response to military challenges in the Black Sea
Russian base in Gudauta, Abkhazia
Russia commences construction of naval base in occupied Abkhazia

Russia has initiated the construction of a military naval base in the occupied region of Abkhazia. The project, reportedly underway in the Ochamchira district, involves significant infrastructure development and the deployment of military vessels, according to SOVA news project.

Details of Russia’s establishment of a naval base in Ochamchira surfaced on December 28, as reported by the “Oko Gora + News and Analysis” Telegram channel, and corroborated by the SOVA news project. Recent satellite images indicate dredging operations in the port, showcasing Russia’s commitment to enhancing its military presence in the region.

The port, which currently serves as a base for patrol boats of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), has witnessed a surge in activity. Approximately 50 vessels were observed in the port as of December 26, contrasting with the absence of any ships just a week prior. Notably, the depths of the port have also undergone alterations, as depicted in the images.

Analyzing satellite imagery post-Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, BBC Newsnight and BBC Verify identified dredging and construction activities at the Ochamchira port. Initially serving as a base for the FSB, recent developments indicate a broader transformation, possibly to accommodate larger vessels with tonnages up to 13,000 tons.

Ukrainian intelligence sources suggest that Russia’s primary objective is to convert Ochamchira into a secure harbor for its Black Sea Fleet, safeguarding its ships from potential Ukrainian counterattacks. Recent attacks by the Ukrainian Armed Forces in occupied Crimea have inflicted losses on Russia’s naval assets, prompting a strategic shift to relocate remaining vessels to more protected ports.

In early October, the self-proclaimed president of unrecognized Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhania, announced the establishment of a permanent Russian fleet base in the Ochamchira region, claiming that an agreement with Russia had already been signed. Despite these developments, Georgia’s parliament, notably, refrains from condemning Russia’s intentions.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized that due to Ukraine’s defensive actions, the Russian Black Sea Fleet lost control over the northwestern part of the Black Sea and partially withdrew from Crimea. Zelenskyy asserted Ukraine’s readiness to confront Russian vessels, even in locations such as the occupied territory of Georgia.

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