Russia may base warplanes in Abkhazia, report says

Russia may base warplanes in breakaway region of Georgia, Abkhazia, in support of a naval base soon to be constructed there news agency quoted a Russian official as saying.

Russia may base warplanes in Abkhazia, report says

Russia may base warplanes in breakaway region of Georgia, Abkhazia, in support of a naval base soon to be constructed there, Interfax news agency quoted a Russian official as saying on Thursday.

NATO countries expressed concern on Wednesday at reports on Interfax quoting unnamned military sources that Russia planned a naval base in Abkhazia, one of two breakaway regions Georgia seeks to reclaim. There has been no Kremlin confirmation.

"The Bombora airfield is one of the most important military installations on the Black Sea coast and the largest military aerodrome in the South Caucasus," Interfax quoted an anonymous military diplomat as saying.

"To deploy an air force unit there will not need any serious investment, because it already has all the necessary land infrastructure."

During Russia's August war with Georgia, sparked by Tbilisi's attempt to retake another rebel region -- South Ossetia -- Russia sent its warships to Abkhazia and landed its marines at the site of the projected naval base, Ochamchire.

A spokesman for Russia's air forces declined to comment. Abkhaz officials could not be immediately reached.

Russia's Black Sea fleet is currently based at Sevastopol in the Ukraine -- a legacy of the breakup of the Soviet Union. Kiev has told Moscow to withdraw when its lease expires in 2017, but Russia hopes to retain the base.

Western energy supplies

Russia's crushing of Georgian forces in the five-day war raised concerns in the West about a new Russian assertiveness in its traditional sphere of influence and stirred fears for the safety of energy supplies that run through Georgia.

A deepwater Ochamchire base and revival of the airfield, which served as a frontline position in Soviet times, could present an additional concern for NATO stratetists.

Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Tbilisi's central rule during wars in the 1990s accompanying the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moscow pledged to deploy bases in both regions to protect them from "a repeat of Georgian aggression"

The military diplomat told Interfax Russia would like to deploy around 20 aircraft in Abkhazia, including Sukhoi Su-27 jet fighters, Su-25 ground attack aircraft and military transport planes.

Interfax quoted a source close to Abkhazia's presidential administration as saying local leadership supported plans to host Russian aircraft.

Reuters
Last Mod: 29 Ocak 2009, 15:52
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