Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach made the controversial remarks during a IDSA think-tank meeting in India. The admiral said Russia has no intention of invading Ukraine, and President Vladimir Putin deserves respect. Video of the meeting was published on social media.
The remarks started a diplomatic row between Berlin and Kyiv with the later summoning the German ambassador.
The German Navy issued the following statement by Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach via press release on 22 January:
“I have just asked the Federal Minister of Defense to relieve me of my duties and responsibilities as Inspector of the Navy, effective immediately.
My ill-considered statements on security and military policy made in India are increasingly weighing on my office. In order to avoid further damage to the German Navy, the Bundeswehr, but above all to the Federal Republic of Germany, I consider this step necessary.
The Federal Minister has accepted my request.
The Commander of the Fleet and Deputy to the Chief of Naval Operations, Rear Admiral Kaack, will lead the German Navy until a successor decision is made.”
Vice Admiral Schönbach took command of the the German Navy less than a year ago, on 24 March 2021.
The controversy emerged while the German Navy Brandenburg-class frigate Bayern is about to complete a rare long duration deployment to the Indo-Pacific region. The frigate departed Colombo on 18 January.