BERLIN, Jan 22 Reuters -- Germany's navy chief stepped down on Saturday after criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved respect and saying that Kyiv would never win back annexed Crimea from Moscow.
Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach said I asked Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht to relieve me from my duties with immediate effect. The minister has accepted my request. Schoenbach made remarks on Friday at a think-tank discussion in India. He also published a video on social media. The comments came at a sensitive time as Russia has tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine's borders.
Diplomatic efforts are focused on preventing an escalation. Russia denies it is planning to invade Ukraine.
In English, Schoenbach said that Putin wants to be treated by the West as an equal.
"What he wants from Putin is respect," Schoenbach said.
And my God, giving someone respect, is low cost, even no cost. Schoenbach said that Russia is an old and important country and it is easy to give him the respect he really needs - and probably deserves as well.
Schoenbach said Russia's actions in Ukraine needed to be addressed. He said that the Crimea peninsula is gone, it will never come back and that Moscow's annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 cannot be accepted and must be reversed.
Prior to Schoenbach's resignation, the defence ministry publicly criticised his remarks, saying they did not reflect Germany's position in either content or wording.
My rash remarks in India are now putting a strain on my office, he said. I consider the resignation necessary to avert further damage to the German navy, the German forces, and, in particular, the Federal Republic of Germany. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry had called on Germany to publicly reject the navy chief's comments. Schoenbach's comments could affect Western efforts to de-escalate the situation, Ukraine said in a statement.
Ukraine is grateful to Germany for the support it has already provided since 2014, as well as for the diplomatic efforts to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Germany's statements are disappointing and run counter to that support and effort, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said separately in a tweet.