German navy chief resigns over Ukraine comments

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The head of the German navy has resigned after coming under fire at home and abroad for comments he made on Ukraine and Russia.

Speaking at an event in India on Friday, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach said Ukraine would not regain the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

He also said it was important to have Russia on the same side against China, and suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved “respect”.

His comments, captured on video, caused anger in Ukraine, which summoned the German ambassador to complain. They also sparked consternation and a swift rebuke back in Berlin.

Ukraine Russia
Members of Ukraine’s Territorial Defence Forces carry out drills (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

In a statement, the German navy said Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht had accepted Mr Schoenbach’s resignation and appointed his deputy as interim naval chief.

The German government has insisted that it stands united with its Nato allies on the issue of Russia’s military threat to Ukraine, warning that Moscow will pay a high price if it makes any military moves against its neighbour.

But unlike many other Nato countries, Berlin said it will not supply Ukraine with lethal weapons, arguing that it does not want to inflame tensions further.

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