German Navy Chief Kay-Achim Schoenbach has resigned after facing critism over comments on Putin and Ukraine. He said Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved respect, and that Kyiv would never win back annexed Crimea from Moscow.

Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach made the comments during a think thank panel discussion at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) in New Delhi, India on January 21, 2022, amidst heightened tension between Moscow and Kyiv. Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s borders but denies it is preparing for an invasion.

He also said the idea that Russia wanted to invade Ukraine was “nonsense” and that all Putin “really wants is respect”.

“He wants respect. And my God, giving someone respect is low cost, even no cost … It is easy to give him the respect he really demands – and probably also deserves,” Schönbach said.

He insisted that the Crimea Peninsula was gone and would never come back to Ukraine, a statement which contradicts the joint western position that Moscow’s annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 cannot be accepted and must be reversed.

Schoenbach’s comments which was captured on video, has stirred up anger in Ukraine, leading to the summoning of the German embassador by Kyiv. Ukraine’s foreign ministry in a statement, called on  Germany to publicly reject the navy chief’s comments, citing that it could hinder Western efforts to de-escalate the situation.

“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 armed conflict. But Germany’s current statements are disappointing and run counter to that support and effort,” Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said via Twitter.

Schoenbach presented his resignation late Sarturday, saying he wanted to prevent further damage to Germany and its military.

German defence ministry quickly rebuked the comments, saying “The content and choice of words of the statements do not correspond in any way to the position of the Federal Ministry of Defense,” a government spokesperson said Saturday.

German defense minister Christine Lambrecht had accepted Schoenbach’s resignation and appointed his deputy as interim naval chief.

German and Ukrainian government are also at loggerheads over Germany’s refusal to supply Ukraine weapons amidst Russian aggression.

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