Russia has reopened sea routes with the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia. The Georgians say the move is another attack on their sovereignty. The sea links were cut in 1996 after a conference of the CIS former Soviet states defused a conflict. Russian peacekeepers moved in, but they are accused by Georgia of supporting Abkhazian separatism.
Georgian parliamentarian Nicholas Rurua said: “This is just a blatant violation of the CIS agreement signed by Russia in 1996, which shut down all Abkhazia’s sea ports, and the reason for that was the smuggling of arms, narcotics, and mercenaries, so Russia is violating yet another treaty with Georgia.”
Moscow repeatedly denies it wishes to annex Abkhazia, but many there would prefer to be ruled from Russia. The Director of the Institute of CIS Studies downplayed the move: “Sea communication with Abkhazia does not mean Russia recognises sovereignty, and it does not mean annexation. Turkey and Bulgaria kept links for years. I don’t see Georgia complaining about these NATO members actions.”
Ferries take 45 minutes from Russia to Abkhazia, and before the crisis they carried thousands of people a day.