About 10 Ukrainian Black Sea Fleet ships have left the naval base in Sevastopol, with several vessels now heading to Odessa, administrative sources have said. The ships left the base voluntarily but some of them broke down and returned, they claimed.
Over the last 24 hours, “about 10 [war]ships and vessels of the Ukrainian Black Sea Fleet have left the Sevastopol base,” a source in the government of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea told Interfax on Sunday.
“Naturally, no one has compelled them to do so,” the government source added.
The administration of the Crimean autonomy has nothing to do with the moves of the Ukrainian ships, an administrative source also told RIA Novosti.
Several vessels have since returned to the base in Sevastopol “because of malfunctions,” the source said.
Meanwhile, former Ukrainian troops were due to swear allegiance to the Crimean authorities in Sevastopol at 5pm local time (15:00 GMT). An unnamed official source earlier told RIA Novosti that “the majority of the Ukrainian armed forces deployed in Crimea” have passed to the side of the region. The transition was made “without a single shot fired,” the source said.
Ukrainian state agencies have been categorically denying both the claims of Ukrainian soldiers switching sides en masse and, earlier, reports of warships leaving Sevastopol.
However, the governor of southern Ukrainian Odessa Region told local media that several Ukrainian ships are sailing to the city of Odessa and it is being decided where they will dock.
A Russian media report on Saturday claimed that Ukraine’s Navy flagship, the Hetman Sahaidachny frigate has refused to follow orders from Kiev, came over to Russia’s side and was returning home from the Gulf of Aden flying the Russian naval flag. Various Ukrainian media denied the report as “false” and “propaganda,” but gave only a Facebook statement of a former Navy officer turned journalist in support of the rebuttal.
This comes as the newly appointed Navy Chief rear admiral Denis Berezovsky has sworn allegiance to the people of Crimea, according to RIA Novosti.
“I, Berezovsky Denis, swear allegiance to the Crimean people and pledge to protect it, as required by the [army] regulations,” Berezovsky said.
Hours after the announcement, the self-proclaimed government in Kiev dismissed the Navy Chief and launched a treason case against him.