On June 4, 2023, lawyer Irakli Zakareishvili and the anonymous pro-government Facebook page “Terenti Gldaneli” published a video in which the former Minister of Internal Affairs of Abkhazia, Davit Gulua, allegedly claimed that the military supply against Georgia during the Abkhazian war was coming from the Crimean port, while the Ukrainians did not prevent the process. Additionally, in the description of the post, Zakareishvili further argues that according to Gulua, the loss of Abkhazia was orchestrated by the US to take Georgia away from Russia, while the information that Ukrainians helped Georgia in the war in Abkhazia is a lie and, on the contrary, they participated in military operations against Georgia.
The post published by Zakareishvili provides a manipulative interpretation of Davit Gulua’s interview. In fact, Gulua did not say that Ukraine participated in military operations during the Abkhazian war against Georgia and that the loss of Abkhazia was orchestrated by the US. In an extensive interview, Gulua talks about the emergence and development of the war and focuses on the role of Russia. As for the assistance provided by Ukraine, Gulua does not completely deny receiving such assistance, and when speaking about the attack on Georgia by the ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet based in Crimea, it should be emphasized that during this period, Ukraine did not have effective control over the Crimean peninsula, including its ports and the ships stationed there; therefore, Ukraine could not possibly prevent the process.
The video published by Zakareishvili is an excerpt from the program “Birth of Georgia.” In the segment, Gulua indeed talks about Ukraine’s aid to Georgia and says that the ships that fired at Georgia were based in Crimea, although he does not say that Ukrainians participated in military operations against Georgia, nor does he completely deny the aid provided by helicopters:
Davit Gulua, Former Minister of Internal Affairs of Abkhazia: “The warships that fired at us throughout the war, they were all based in Ukraine, in Crimea. Why didn’t they stop them? Not only that, the helicopters they gave us to transport the refugees, they also knew that non one in a military uniform, wounded or not, was allowed there, only civilians. Now they started a fake that they were helping us. That wasn’t the case. We do not owe anyone anything.”
During the war in Abkhazia, Russian military planes and ships carried out attacks on the territory of Georgia. Among them were ships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, for instance, СКР «Безукоризненный». According to the official website of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the ship participated in the “peacekeeping mission during the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict” in 1992; However, the ship was actually used for the occupation of Gagra. Russian Black Sea fleet ships KIL-2, Дон, Головин, ВТН-38, ВМ-66, which were based in Crimean ports, also took part in the process.
Amid the Abkhazian war, the territory of Crimea was controlled by the self-declared Republic of Crimea. In 1992-1995, the Crimean parliament declared independence and adopted various laws and decisions on political, economic and military issues without agreeing with the Ukrainian authorities. In the same period, pro-Russian forces were active in Crimea, who demanded the annexation of Sevastopol and later the whole of Crimea by Russia and the transfer of the fleet stationed here to Russia as a whole. The agreements reached between Russia and Ukraine in 1992-1995 regarding the distribution of the fleet were not fulfilled, and the negotiations ended in vain. At different times, negotiations were held about the potential lease of Sevastopol to Russia, which Ukraine refused. In addition, during these negotiations, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was demanding Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk to give a part of the fleet that Ukraine should receive to Russia, and in return, Russia would write off the fuel debt. These negotiations have also failed.
Before the agreements were reached, the warships of the Black Sea Fleet had to operate under the flag of the Soviet Union; however, as a result of disagreements and protests, by June 1993, 220 ships of the fleet were flying the Russian flag, and only three used the Ukrainian flag.
With the Crimean parliament adopting its own constitution that conflicted with the Ukrainian constitution, introducing its own tax and tariff system, and holding elections and referendums, the Ukrainian government tried to bring the situation under control by negotiating and offering more autonomy to Crimea. Ukraine’s efforts were hindered by pro-Russian political forces in Crimea, who demanded to join Russia. They were also supported by the Russian government. For example, in July 1993, the Russian Parliament adopted a resolution declaring Sevastopol as the base of the unified Russian Black Sea Fleet and as Russian territory, which was condemned by Ukraine and the West.
Therefore, in the conditions where Ukraine did not have effective control over the Crimean peninsula, the naval bases located there and the fleet stationed in these bases, the demand that it should have stopped the use of this fleet by Russia in the Abkhazian war against Georgia is unrealistic.
Finally, the so-called The Republic of Crimea was abolished in 1995 and entered under the jurisdiction of Ukraine under the name of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. Russia and Ukraine reached an agreement on the Black Sea Fleet in 1997, which left Russia with 81.7% of the fleet and Ukraine with 18.3%, including the two ships that participated in the attack on Gagra, СКР «Безукоризненный» and ВТН-38. Russia also agreed to pay $526 million in compensation to Ukraine in return for these terms. Ukraine has agreed to rent Crimean naval bases to Russia for $97 million a year until 2017, subject to renewal of the agreement every five years. In return, Russia had to respect the sovereignty of Ukraine; while crossing the border, the Russian military had to present military identification cards and operations outside the deployment site had to be coordinated with Ukraine. In 2014, Russia violated the agreement by annexing Crimea, and then the Russian authorities recognized it as invalid.
As for Ukraine’s assistance to Georgia in the war in Abkhazia, Ukraine sent 17 helicopters to evacuate the civilian population, which made about 300 flights and rescued about 8,000 people. In addition, in a conversation with Radio Liberty, during the war in Abkhazia, Elguja Adamia, the administrator of the military hospital, said that the wounded were evacuated from the hospital by ships sent from Sevastopol.
In the interview, Davit Gulua also mentions Ukrainian volunteers who fought on the side of Georgia. According to him, their government opposed the participation of Ukrainians in the war and threatened to suppress those who wanted to go to Abkhazia to fight. Ukrainian legislation indeed forbade Ukrainian volunteers to participate in conflicts outside the country; however, the Ukrainian National Assembly and the Ukrainian National Defense Organization, also known as “UNA-UNSO”, organized their deployment, and a total of 300 Ukrainian volunteers fought on the side of Georgia in the Abkhazian war.
Disinformation about the assistance of Ukraine to Georgia amid the war in Abkhazia was disseminated in the past as well. For more details, see the article prepared by “Myth Detector:”
- How did the Ukrainian Soldiers Help Georgia during the Abkhazian War, and What were the Intentions of the Russian Empire in the 19th Century?
As for Zakareishvili’s claim, as if Gulua allegedly said that the loss of Abkhazia was orchestrated by the US, he did not state such a thing in the interview. In fact, in a 4-hour interview, Davit Gulua talks extensively about Russia’s role in the war in Abkhazia. As for the West, he asked why the West did not stop Russia:
Davit Gulua, Former Minister of Internal Affairs of Abkhazia: “At that time, Russia was completely dependent on the West. They were sitting in Moscow. Yeltsin was at their expense, they brought him as president. Why didn’t they say about Abkhazia – don’t do this? Why didn’t they tell Shevardnadze to join the CIS, we made it?”
Disinformation that the West, in particular the US, has dragged Georgia into the war, including in 1992 and 2008, was disseminated in the past as well. See:
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