The former head of the Ukrainian Navy got into heated exchanges with officers Monday as he tried to convince others to defect and join the pro-Russian authorities in Crimea.
Adm. Denis Berezovsky, who is facing a treason investigation after declaring his allegiance to the Crimean government, was dismissed from his post on Sunday.
At a Ukrainian naval command facility in Sevastopol Monday morning, Navy officers were addressed by both Berezovsky and their newly appointed chief, Serhiy Haiduk, according to The Guardian.
The officers cheered as Haiduk announced Berezovsky’s dismissal, but tensions escalated when Berezovsky tried to entice them to join the newly proclaimed Crimean fleet.
“Viktor Yanukovych is the legitimately elected president of Ukraine,” he told them, claiming that there would be no breach of oath or repercussions if they decided to serve Crimea. “The seizure of power in Kiev was orchestrated from abroad.”
But an officer lashed back, drawing applause from the crowd as he said “In what way exactly did foreign powers intervene in Kiev, compared to the way they are intervening now in Crimea?”
Berezovsky responded by telling the officers not to ask “provocative questions,” The Guardian reports.
On Friday, Crimea Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov announced the creation of Crimea's Navy and appointed Berezovsky as its leader, RT reports.
“All Navy troops dislocated in Sevastopol are ordered to disregard any commands coming from Ukraine's new self-proclaimed authorities," Aksyonov added. "Do not take any orders of using arms till my personal instructions.”