Russia's Rosneft to explore for oil in Abkhazia: rebels
Russian oil giant Rosneft will explore for offshore oil deposits in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region, a potentially rich source of hydrocarbons, the region's rebel leader said Wednesday.
"The work is beginning ... At this point, we are bringing in the equipment," Abkhaz rebel leader Sergei Bagapsh said in an interview with Russian daily Kommersant.
Rosneft will explore several sections of the continental shelf off Abkhazia's Black Sea coast between the towns of Gudauta and Novy Afon, which "contain significant oil reserves," Bagapsh said.
He said only one of 22 oil wells drilled in Abkhazia in the Soviet period had been briefly operated since a bloody conflict in the early 1990s that saw the region break away from Georgia's control.
Bagapsh said Abkhaz authorities had attempted to resume oil extraction but failed due to a lack of resources.
"We were able to extract oil ... but we had to shut it down again. At that time we were not yet ready as we lacked specialists and equipment," he said.
The Georgian government has repeatedly raised concerns over Russia's plans to explore for oil in Abkhazia, saying the work is in violation of Georgia's sovereignty and poses environmental threats to the entire Black Sea region.
Abkhaz separatists waged a civil war with Georgia in the 1990s after the break up of the Soviet Union that killed several thousand people and left 250,000, mostly ethnic Georgians, as refugees.
Georgia insists that Abkhazia is an integral part of its territory but Russia recognised it and another rebel province, South Ossetia, as independent states following its brief conflict with Georgia in 2008.
© 2010 AFP