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Ochamchira instead of Sevastopol?2009-01-28 16:29
This year Russia will set about establishing a naval base in Abkhazia in the town of Ochamchira. This was reported on 26th January.
According to ITAR-TASS, which quoted a spokesman for Russia's General Naval Staff, the fundamental decision on this issue has already been made and the details are currently being discussed with the Abkhazians. "The base will be used in consideration of the threat of sabotage and terrorist acts from the Georgian intelligence services," affirmed an unnamed source. "This means that the base will be equipped with all forms of defence - under water and on the water, as well as from the air and dry land."
Abkhazia's President Sergey Bagapsh confirmed the existence of the aforementioned agreements on the same day. Admittedly, with some caveats: "There is indeed an agreement in principle to the creation of a base for ships belonging to the Black Sea Fleet around Ochamchira this year," he was quoted by Interfax. "We have discussed certain technical issues. But to this day no documents have yet officially been signed." Bagapsh also noted that threats of sabotage from the Georgians are compelling the Russian and Abkhazian sides to "come to a decision on this issue more quickly".
According to reports from a variety of media sources, they have already devised a provisional plan of action. The naval base in Ochamchira is not being created from scratch - former Soviet naval facilities will be reconstructed. For this, the seabed will be deepened and some shoreline infrastructure will be restored. Work on this project will begin as early as this year and is expected to take a few years. In the end two ships from the Black Sea fleet will be based there (some reports state that this will also include several diesel-fuelled submarines).
"If Russia thinks that the time has come for this to be done (ie the reconstruction of the base)," IA Regnum quotes Abkhazia's Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba, "then we are willing to discuss it." Shamba also related that some necessary elements of infrastructure have been left over from Soviet times to accommodate Russian sailors in Ochamchira: a railway line reaches the town, and there is a military post. "All this can be restored," he concluded.
It is also worth mentioning that plans were announced earlier to reconstruct the ground base in Gudauta and subsequently to accommodate Russian soldiers there - in the context of the planned signing of a military cooperation agreement between Russia and Abkhazia. And the idea of Russian naval vessels being based in the republic is not in itself a new one.