Signs of infrastructure expansion in Ochamchire Bay, Russian-occupied Abkhazia, are emerging. While no major developments occurred at the pre-existing Russian FSB-Coast Guard base, new warehouses and cleared land in the adjacent area suggest potential expansion in connection to the Kremlin’s plans. Ochamchrie could serve as a reserve base for Russian warships displaced from occupied Crimea and Novorossiysk by Ukrainian attacks even in its current state. However, hosting a larger Russian Navy presence over extended periods demands further investment in base logistics and defenses. Continuous monitoring is required to assess the impact on regional stability and Russian strategic ambitions in the Black Sea.


Eight months after the self-proclaimed Abkhaz president Aslan Bzhania announced that Russia would establish a permanent naval base in Ochamchire (occupied Abkhazia, Georgia de jure) in the near future, signs of infrastructure expansion in Ochamchire Bay are emerging. While no development was noted in the pre-existing Russian Federal Security Agency (FSB)-Coast Guard base in Ochamchire between 31OCT23 and 9JUN24, modest signs of improvement and expansion are visible in the adjacent areas. New warehouses have emerged, and additional acreage has been cleared for redevelopment, including near the quays in the Jukmuri Coal Port, which is co-located in Ochamchire Bay with the FSB-Coast Guard base. 

It is unclear if these changes are exclusively civilian (e.g. coal trade/smuggling) or related to planned Russian military expansion. However, we have moderate confidence that the noted changes serve Russia’s operational and infrastructure requirements for military expansion. If more warships, including corvettes, are to be serviced and stationed in Ochamchire Bay for extended periods, the Russians will need to:

  • Build new berthing areas/quays;
  • Establish new logistical support facilities, such as warehouses and other structures, for fuel and weapons storage.

Expanding Ochamchire Bay could be another desirable improvement. Limited dredging activity took place around the harbor entrance in 2022, but not elsewhere or recently. 

Given the space limitations in Ochamchire Bay, the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet (BSF) may need to take over the adjacent waterfront areas, including the Jukmuri Coal Port.

It is highly unlikely for Ochamchire to host a major Russian BSF naval base in the short term due to geographical and infrastructure constraints. However, Ochamchire Bay can be improved to support temporary dispersions of Russian warships displaced from occupied Crimea and Novorossiysk by Ukrainian cruise missiles, one-way attack unmanned aerial vehicles (OWA-UAVs), and unmanned surface vessels (USVs). 

Ochamchire Bay can serve as a reserve base for the Russian BSF even in its current stage—the estimated capacity is 10 ships. With a 9-meter depth, Ochamchire can host most types of Russian warships. A prolonged presence would also require the improvement of local air and coastal defenses. 

Russian warships seeking shelter in Ochamchire are unlikely to be completely shielded from Ukrainian attacks. At least two Ukrainian maritime drones, SEA BABY USV and MARICKHA (unmanned underwater vehicle/UUV), can reach Ochamchire if launched from Odesa (900-1,000 km/ 500-530 nm). Ukrainian special operations forces could mount covert stand-in attacks using loitering munitions or OWA-UAVs launched from Georgia and conduct direct action sabotage. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has already indicated that Ukraine is able to prosecute Russia in its Ochamchire. 

An expansion and escalation of Russian naval presence in Ochamchire would allow the Kremlin to cement control over occupied Abkhazia, strengthen deterrence against Georgia, and perpetuate its ambitions to dominate the Black Sea. However, it would equally indicate that Russia’s designs in the Black Sea are gradually isolated in the southeast corner. As construction activities in Ochamchire Bay are ongoing, the area requires continuous monitoring throughout 2024.

Alternatively, at least some of the structures might be connected to Russian coal smuggling operations from occupied territories in Ukraine, such as Luhansk and Donetsk. This smuggling route, passing through Taganrog, Rostov, Sukhumi, and Ochamchire Bay via railway, allows Russia to circumvent international sanctions and disguise the origin of the coal. The coal is then shipped to Turkey under the pretense of being locally sourced from Abkhazia. This operation not only undermines economic sanctions but also bolsters Russia’s economic exploitation of the territories it occupied. Ultimately, the expanding infrastructure in Ochamchire Bay can be of dual use, servicing both the Russian military presence and the coal smuggling business.


Ochmachire Bay can be divided into three main areas: the FSB-Coast Guard base, clearly walled off from the rest, the Jukmuri Coal Port, and the logistical storage area in between. Quays and docking areas exist in all cardinal directions within Ochamchire Bay. However, only the southern quays belong exclusively to the FSB-Coast Guard. 

OS/GEOINT Ochamchire Bay 9JUN24 (©T-Intelligence analysis; ©Planet imagery)

OS/GEOINT Ochamchire Bay 31OCT23 (©T-Intelligence analysis; ©Planet imagery)

The 31OCT23-9JUN24 timeframe analyzed indicates slow but clear progress in Ochmachire Bay area development, including the building of new warehouses, sustained earthwork and clearing activities, and the establishment of a large construction yard, hinting at the long-term scope of the project. 

  • Existing Structures: The main infrastructure in Ochamchire Bay remains largely the same. This is especially true of the FSB-Coast Guard base, where the facility remains unchanged. 
  • New Structures: Several new warehouses or structures have appeared in the Jukmuri Coal Port and in the area north of it, which is contaminated with coal. Some new structures west of Jukmuri were built in 2022.
  • Clearing and Earthworks: Additional land clearing and earthworks are visible in the Coal Port, particularly near the quays and in a remote section northeast of the FSB-Coast Guard base. The ongoing clearing and earthworks suggest preparations for additional infrastructure, redevelopment, or enhancements.

OS/GEOINT Ochamchire Bay 16SEP22 (©T-Intelligence analysis; ©Airbus imagery)


On 5OCT23, the self-proclaimed Abkhaz president Aslan Bzhania announced that Russia would establish a permanent naval base in Ochamchire in the near future. The announcement came after Bzhania held a one-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on 4 OCT23. Russia’s intention to create a permanent naval base in Ochamchire was confirmed by the Head of Ukrainian Military Intelligence Kyrylo Budanov on 12JAN24. 

Currently, the Russian FSB-Coast Guard operates a small naval base in Ochamchire, where around four to eight Project 12150 (Mangust) and Project 12200 (Sobol) patrol vessels are permanently deployed. The FSB-Coast Guard is conducting maritime border management on behalf of the Russian-backed, self-proclaimed Abkhaz authorities.

Russia justifies its current presence in Ochamchire on the basis of a 2009 Abkhaz-Russian agreement for maritime security and border management.

Since the 1960s, the Soviet Navy has used Ochamchire Bay as a minor base to deploy subchasers. 

by Vlad Sutea

Vlad Șutea
Founder & Lead OSINT Analyst

Founder of T-Intelligence. OSINT analyst & instructor, with experience in defense intelligence (private sector), armed conflicts, and geopolitical flashpoints.