© Reuters. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht visits the naval base in Warnemuende, Germany, December 17, 2021. Bernd Wuestneck / Pool via REUTERS
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s naval police chief resigned on Saturday after being criticized for saying Russian President Vladimir Putin deserves respect and Kyiv would never regain annexed Crimea from Moscow.
“I have asked Defense Secretary Christine Lambrecht to resign immediately,” Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach said in a statement. “The minister has accepted my request.”
Schoenbach made the comment during a panel discussion in India on Friday, and the video was published on social media. The comments come at a sensitive time when Russia is deploying tens of thousands of troops on the Ukrainian border.
Diplomatic efforts are focused on preventing escalation. Russia denies it is planning an invasion of Ukraine.
In New Delhi, Schoenbach, speaking in English, said Putin sought equal treatment by the West.
“What he (Putin) really wants is respect,” Schoenbach said.
“And God, it’s cheap, even inexpensive to give someone respect… It’s easy to give him the respect he really demands – and perhaps well deserves. “, Schoenbach said, calling Russia an old and important country.
Schoenbach admits Russia’s actions in Ukraine need to be addressed. But he added that “the Crimean peninsula is gone, it will never come back, this is a fact,” contradicting the common Western view that Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. 2014 is unacceptable and must be reversed.
Before Schoenbach resigned, the Ministry of Defense publicly criticized his remarks, saying that they did not reflect Germany’s position in either content or wording.
Schoenbach has apologized for his comments.
“My rash remarks in India … are increasingly stressing my office,” he said. “I consider this step (resignation) necessary to prevent further damage to the German navy, German forces and especially the Federal Republic of Germany.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry has called on Germany to publicly reject the naval chief’s comments. Ukraine said Schoenbach’s comments could undermine Western efforts to de-escalate the situation.
“Ukraine is grateful to Germany for the support it has provided since 2014, as well as its diplomatic efforts to resolve the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict. But Germany’s current statements are disappointing and disappointing. against that support and effort,” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba specifically tweeted.
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