Russian warships will continue patrolling waters off the coast of Abkhazia until all U.S. ships leave the Black Sea, Russia's NATO envoy said on Wednesday.
Russia sent warships from its Black Sea fleet to ensure security along the coast of Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia following an attempt in early August by Georgian forces to retake South Ossetia, another breakaway republic.
"I think our ships will stay near the coast of Abkhazia as long as it is necessary to ensure security [in the region]," Dmitry Rogozin told a news conference in Brussels.
On August 20, the Turkish government gave permission to three U.S. ships to enter the Black Sea as part of relief efforts in Georgia. They stayed in the region for 21 days, in line with the terms of the 1936 Montreux Convention, which governs passage through the Bosporus straits, and according to Washington have already left the Black Sea.
The fourth ship, the USNS Pathfinder (T-AGS 60) oceanographic survey ship, which is owned by the Military Sealift Command and has a civilian crew and scientists on board, is currently anchored in the Sevastopol harbor at the invitation of the Ukrainian government.
Russian intelligence believes that U.S. ships are spying on the Russian Black Sea fleet and that along with humanitarian aid delivered military equipment to Georgia, including new air defense systems.
Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on August 26 and signed friendship and cooperation treaties with them on Wednesday. The move came after a five-day war between Russian and Georgia over South Ossetia.
President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday that Russia would not permit any new Georgian aggression against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and that Moscow was ready to render the republics support, including military.