(Bloomberg) -- Ukraine summoned Germany’s ambassador to protest comments by the top German naval officer, including a call to show respect toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

The Defense Ministry in Berlin on Saturday distanced itself from the remarks by Navy Inspector Kay-Achim Schoenbach, who also said Crimea would never return to Ukraine after its annexation by Russia in 2014. Ukraine’s foreign minister said Germany was encouraging Russia to attack Ukraine.

The comments, recorded this week during a talk by Schoenbach in India and posted online, created an awkward diversion as the U.S. and Europe respond to the Ukraine standoff after Putin massed an estimated 100,000 troops on the border.

The latest U.S.-Russian talks ended inconclusively this week. Aides to the Ukrainian, Russian, German and French leaders will probably meet on Jan. 26 in Paris for talks, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, said by text message.  

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday signaled reluctance to participate in any effort to arm Ukraine, saying his country’s policy is to refrain from exporting “lethal weapons.” 

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine expressed “deep disappointment” to the ambassador about Germany’s refusal to provide Ukraine with “defensive weapons.”  

“The German partners should stop undermining unity and encouraging Vladimir Putin for a new attack on Ukraine by such their words and acts,” Kuleba said in a series of tweets. 

In the video, Schoenbach suggested Putin’s underlying goal was to win affirmation for Russia as a major power.

“It is easy to even give him the respect he really demands and probably also deserves,” Schoenbach said. He also cast doubt on Ukraine’s aspirations of NATO membership, which the U.S. and its allies want to maintain as an option, over Russian objections.  

“Is it smart to have them as a member? No, it’s not,” he said.

The German Defense Ministry said Schoenbach would be asked to explain his comments to the nation’s top military officer.

The statements “reflect neither in wording nor in content the position of the German Defense Ministry,” a ministry spokesperson said Saturday. “Admiral Schoenbach will have the opportunity for a clarification in a meeting with the army‘s general inspector.” 

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