Sukhum airport will reopen after 30 years - allegedly owing to Russian oligarch
Sukhum airport to reopen
In St. Petersburg, at an international economic forum, a Russian-Abkhaz agreement was signed to reopen the Sukhum airport which had been closed for 30 years. The airport will be restored in two stages at the expense of a private Russian investor, without funds from the federal budget. The name of the investor is not known, but according to rumors, Oleg Deripaska will restore and operate the airport in the future — who, by the way, is under the sanctions of the United States, the European Union and a number of other countries.
From the Abkhaz side the document was signed by Deputy Prime Minister, and Minister of Economy Kristina Ozgan, and from the Russian side by Minister of Economic Development Maxim Reshetnikov.
“I can say without exaggeration that this is a very important event for our country. The implementation of this investment project will have a significant impact on the development of the economy of Abkhazia,” Ozgan said.
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The Sukhum airport has been inactive since the end of the Georgian-Abkhazian war of 1992-93. Regular flights are not carried out, as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) refuses to license the airport without the permission of the Georgian government.
At the same time, due to its location the airport is considered one of the most convenient for flights in the region. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, its passenger turnover was up to 5,000 passengers per day in summer, up to 1,000 in winter.
Officially, not only the name of the investor but also the terms of the transaction are not being disclosed, in particular issues related to ownership. A year ago, the President of Abkhazia, Aslan Bzhaniya, emphasized that, according to preliminary agreements, the ownership of the runway would remain with Abkhazia, while the investor would own the airport complex. But it is not known whether these conditions obtain.
According to preliminary estimates, the cost of the first stage of reconstruction will be 6.5 billion rubles (about $79 million). At this stage, the reconstruction of 2.4 of the 3.6 km of the runway is planned.
It is expected that the annual traffic volume at the first stage of reconstruction will be 375.8 thousand passengers.
The second stage of restoration work will begin upon reaching the mark of 1 million passengers per year.
The airport is scheduled to reopen at the end of 2024.
The authorities of Abkhazia hope that the opening of the airport will significantly increase the tourist flow to the republic, especially to the eastern part of Abkhazia, which, due to inconvenient logistics, is currently not very popular with Russian tourists.