Russia militarising energy-rich Black Sea area and EU and NATO must act

David Zalkaliani, Georgia’s foreign minister, urged for “more attention and more engagement” from western powers as Moscow’s deployment of missiles and radars in the territory grows. The minister’s remarks outline the emerging conflict for an energy-rich trade route which counts two EU members, Romania and Bulgaria, on its shores. The region also links Europe to Asia and to the Mediterranean end of the Middle East.

A cyber attack on Georgia in October was blamed on Russia by the UK and the US.

They believed Moscow’s GRU intelligence agency was responsible for the attack which targeted government websites and media outlets.

Mr Zalkaliani told the Financial Times: “It’s really important to diminish this military and political influence of the Russian Federation.

“Strategically, this region is really very important and lack of attention from the EU and other western partners will avail others to fill this gap.”

He added Russia was deploying the “most sophisticated military equipment and ammunition” in the Abkhazia region.

The self-declared independent region has increasingly aligned itself with the Kremlin.

This has grown since Moscow seized 20 percent of Georgia’s territory in 2008.

Mr Zalkaliani claimed the latest Russian material in Abkhazia includes the S-300 anti-ballistic missile system.

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He also said the weapons have the “most modern” radar set-up.

After being taken over from Ukraine in 2014, Russia also deployed the S-400 missile system in Crimea.

The minister warned: “This allows them to control the whole Black Sea perimeter – and not only the Black Sea perimeter but the region beyond.


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“We need more attention and more engagement from our EU and Nato partners, in the political and military dimensions, as well as the socio-economic dimension.”

Russia has upgraded its Black Sea fleet since it took control of Crimea and its ports.

The upgrade prompted Nato to increase its sea patrols in the area.

Bulgaria and Romania are both are recognised by the EU as Black Sea state members.

Mr Zalkaliani urged the EU to invest more in areas such as undersea electricity and fibre optic cables and ferry links to Georgian ports.

He wrote to the European Commission last weekend, along with his Ukranian and Moldovan counterparts.

They aired concerns over their funding from the EU’s neighbourhood investments in geographically close partner countries.

They fear funds might be tightened during negotiations over the blocs next seven-year budget as member states look fill the UK’s gap from Brexit.

Mr Zalkaliani highlighted the EU’s strategy to construct Eurasian trade routes.

He said: “It can be one of the effective ways to shorten the route between Europe and Asia.

“Georgia is a gateway to eight land-locked countries of central Asia.”

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