Putin’s new Black Sea naval base in rebel region could ‘drag Georgia into war’

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Georgia could “legally” be pulled into the Ukraine war if Kyiv fired on Russia’s new proposed Black Sea naval base.

It comes after Aslan Bzhania, the leader of Georgian breakaway region Abkhazia, recently announced that Moscow would soon have a “permanent point of deployment” along its coastline.

Abkhazia broke away from Georgia during the 2008 Russo-Georgia war and from then on declared itself a republic with the backing of Russia.

It is, however, only recognised by five countries as an independent state, while the rest of the world sees it as part of Georgia.

Now, former Georgian Minister of Defence David Kezerashvili has warned that Georgia could technically be dragged into the war should Ukraine fire at the naval base if and when it is opened.

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“This is obviously an affront to the international community, which considers Abkhazia to be an integral part of Georgia,” he told French publication, Le Point.

“It is also a message to Turkey, whose naval bases are located nearby. Furthermore, it’s a message to the Russian public, which is being made to understand that the country has no intention of leaving the Caucasus, despite its policy of abandoning Nagorno-Karabakh in Armenia.

“If this port is targeted by Ukraine, Georgia could be legally dragged into the conflict.

“There is also a risk that Russia may want to seize other Georgian ports on the Black Sea.”

Express.co.uk was previously shown comments from Mr Kezerashvili that any such naval base would be a “nightmare scenario for the West”.

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Russia has in recent months struggled to protect its Black Sea fleet located in annexed Sevastopol, Crimea, from Ukrainian bombardment.

Last month, a Kyiv missile strike smashed the headquarters of Moscow’s fleet in Crimea, targeted operations that followed from attacks on Russian air-defence systems and naval vessels in Crimea.

Mr Bzhania, the self-styled president of Russian-backed Abkhazia, claimed the agreement had been made for a base in the Ochamchira region earlier this month.

He said: “We have signed an agreement, and in the near future there will be a permanent base of the Russian Navy in the Ochamchira district.

“This is all aimed at increasing the level of defence capability of both Russia and Abkhazia, and this kind of interaction will continue. There are also things I can’t talk about.”

The Kremlin has not yet commented on the alleged deal, but Georgia’s foreign ministry said it would be a “flagrant violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

He told the press that a new naval base would expand the defence capacity of Russia and Abkhazia, and “safeguard the fundamental interests” of both, and that “security is above all”.

Russia already has a military base on the Black Sea in Bombora, Abkhazia, called the 7th military base.

Most of the world recognises Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the other breakaway republic from the 2008 conflict, as belonging to Georgia.

Only Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru and Syria see the two as independent states.

The region is no stranger to territorial disputes having fought a war of succession with Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Lasting between 1992 and 1993, which saw Abkhazia overrun by Abkhazian forces, and a Russian-brokered ceasefire in South Ossetia.

While both remained a part of Georgia, Abkhazia declared independence in 1999.

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