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The debate over whether the possibility of building a naval base on the Black Sea coast of Abkhazia was a goal of Russia's August conflict with Georgia or just a convenient consequence may never be resolved. But rumblings continue to indicate that this possibility is moving toward reality.

RIA Novosti today quoted Communist Duma Deputy and former Russian Black Sea Fleet commander Vladimir Komoyedov, a member of the Duma's Defense Committee, as saying Russia is mulling a base at the deep-water port of Ochamchira. Further, the report quoted Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba as saying Abkhazia is "ready to cooperate with Russia in all directions in this sphere."

The Black Sea Fleet is currently based at the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol, but Moscow's lease on those facilities ends in 2017. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has warned Moscow the lease will not be extended and has advised Russia to make plans to relocate the fleet.

-- Robert Coalson

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