Fissures between Ukrainian and German officials emerged Saturday over Berlin’s refusal to arm Ukrainian defense forces amid fears of an imminent Russian invasion.
German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht told Welt am Sonntag in an interview published Saturday that Germany is committed to de-escalating the conflict but that “arms deliveries would not be helpful in this respect.”
Ms. Lambrecht said Germany will supply with a field hospital in February, but said there is no plan for Germany to supply Ukraine with arms at the current time.
“I can understand the wish to support Ukraine, and that’s exactly what we are doing already,” she said.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was quick to criticize Germany over the remarks.
“Today, the unity of the West with Russia is more important than ever,” Mr. Kuleba wrote on Twitter. “To achieve it and deter the Russian Federation, we are all working together.”
Mr. Kubela expressed gratitude for the non-lethal support Berlin has committed, but said Germany’s statements “about the impossibility of transferring defense weapons to Ukraine,” were contrary to “the level of our relations and the current security situation.”
Relations between the two nations were already on pins and needles following remarks from Germany’s top officer, Vice Admiral Kay-Achim Schönbach, from earlier in the week when he said Russian President Vladimir Putin “probably” deserves 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,” he said.
Mr. Schönbach also said that Russia will likely never cede the Crimean Peninsula to the Ukrainians after the Kremlin annexed the region in 2014.
Ukraine summoned Germany’s ambassador to Kyiv Saturday to protest the remarks, and Mr. Schönbach apologized on Twitter saying the remarks “do not correspond in any way to the official position” of the German ministry of defense.
“German partners must stop such words and actions to undermine unity and encourage Vladimir Putin to a new attack on Ukraine,” he said.
Mr. Schönbach resigned from his position later Saturday.
Several countries, including the U.S. and U.K., have committed to providing security assistance to Ukraine amid the heightened tensions.
On Saturday, the U.S. delivered its first shipment of a $200 million security assistance package to Kyiv approved in December. The shipment included close to “200,000 pounds of lethal security assistance including ammunition for front line defenders of Ukraine,” according to the U.S. Embassy.