Russia to relocate black sea fleet naval base to Georgian breakaway province in Abkhazia

Warships from Russia's Black Sea Fleet are seen in Novorossiysk on July 30, 2023. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is fleeing from the port of Sevastopol in Crimea, satellite images show. STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

The Kremlin refused to answer questions about Russian naval operations Thursday after the Wall Street Journal reported that Russia had withdrawn the bulk of its Black Sea Fleet from its main base in annexed Crimea.

The WSJ said the move had been a response to Ukrainian attacks but the Kremlin’s press secretary directed questions on the matter to the defense ministry.

Amid talk of a permanent Russian naval base in the separatist Georgian region of Abkhazia, the connection between the two countries goes back decades.

In 2008, Russia and Georgia fought over the Moscow-backed breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The war lasted about five days and left hundreds of soldiers dead and displaced thousands.

Russia then recognized the two regions as independent. Besides Russia, only Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru, and Syria have recognized Abkhazia’s independent status.

Since 2009, Russia has based troops in Abkhazia, and in 2014, Moscow and Abkhazia signed a military agreement – months after the annexation of Crimea.

In August, former Russian leader and head of the Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, warned that Russia could annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia amid talk of Georgia joining the NATO alliance.

“In Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the idea of joining Russia is still popular. And it may well be implemented, if there are good reasons for it,” Medvedev said.

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