Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 123

The blockade of Sukhumi harbor by Russian coast guard ships, which led the Abkhaz side to scuttle last week’s scheduled round of Georgian-Abkhaz negotiations, has entirely nonpolitical reasons, according to officials of Russia’s Foreign Ministry which mediates the talks. The Russian warships are there to prevent the sailing to Turkey of three Abkhaz cargo ships fraudulently registered as Russian. The ships were inherited by Georgia from the ex-USSR, were captured by the Abkhaz from the Georgians, and were sold to a relative of Abkhazia’s would-be president Vladislav Ardzinba who has been operating them under the Russian flag in trade with Turkey, the Russian officials said. The ships are unlawfully registered in Sochi (coincidentally the site of Boris Yeltsin’s favorite retreat). (13)

Under a Russian-Georgian agreement, the Georgia-Turkey maritime border is guarded by the naval component of Russia’s border troops, to protect Georgia’s "external" borders. The sea route to Turkey, particularly to its port Trabzon, is critical for bringing food to Abkhazia whose overland access to Russia is blocked since the beginning of the Chechnya war.

Russia, Iran Consorting on Caspian Issues.