Germany's navy chief Kay-Achim Schonbach steps down after criticism over his comments praising Russian president and to drop hopes over Crimea.

German navy chief resigns over Russia, Ukraine comments.
German navy chief resigns over Russia, Ukraine comments. (AP)

Germany's navy chief stepped down after drawing criticism for his comments over ongoing Russia tensions.

On his comments the admiral Kay-Achim Schonbach said Russian President Vladimir Putin deserved respect and that Kiev would never win back annexed Crimea from Moscow.

"I have asked Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht to relieve me from my duties with immediate effect," vice-admiral Kay-Achim Schoenbach said in a statement on late Saturday.

"The minister has accepted my request," he added.

Speaking at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in India, Schonbach said Putin "probably" deserved respect.

"It is easy to even give him [Putin] respect. He really demands and probably also deserves,"  the admiral said in a video conference.

Schonbach also noted that Germany and also India need Russia to counter China.

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'Crimea is gone'

The admiral underlined that Russian actions in the region needs to be adressed as "a fact" Crimea Peninsula "is gone. It will never come back."
Schönbach said Russia's actions in Ukraine needed to be addressed, but added that "the Crimea Peninsula is gone: It will never come back — this is a fact."

After the comments of the admiral political earthquake hit Berlin as a display of contradicting the joint Western position that Moscow's annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 cannot be accepted and must be reversed.

Ukraine has summoned German envoy to Kiev over his comments.

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Apology

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.

Schoenbach apologised for his comments.

"My rash remarks in India ... are increasingly putting a strain on my office," he said. "I consider this step (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 impair 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 armed conflict.

But Germany's current statements are disappointing and run counter to that support and effort," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said separately in tweet.

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Source: Reuters