KIEV (AFP) - Ukraine's navy chief announced on Sunday he had switched allegiance to the pro-Russian authorities of the flashpoint peninsula of Crimea, a day after he was appointed to the post by interim leader Oleksandr Turchynov.
"I swear to execute the orders of the (pro-Russia) commander-in-chief of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea," Rear Admiral Denis Berezovsky said in a televised statement from inside the Crimean headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, adding that he "swears allegiance to the residents of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea".
The seismic declaration came as the Kiev authorities appeared to be losing control of the Russian-speaking Crimea peninsula, which has plunged further and further into disarray since the ouster of Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych last weekend.
Armed men that Kiev believes are backed by Moscow have since seized key government buildings in the region and surrounded Ukrainian military bases, and Russia's parliament on Saturday approved the deployment of troops into the country.
It is unclear why and how RAdm Berezovsky switched his allegiance, but Crimea's newly appointed pro-Russia prime minister Sergiy Aksyonov, who is not recognised by Kiev, said the announcement was a "historic event" at a joint press conference with the navy chief.