The German defense ministry has been forced to withdraw its Panzergrenadier Zug (Armored Infantry Platoon) from the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup Lithuania amid allegations ranging from sexual assault to extremist behavior.
The defense ministry said the troops would be transferred back to Germany on June 17 after a number of the accused troops had already been brought back.
Pending ongoing investigations, some of the accused personnel could be dismissed from service.
In addition to sexual misconduct and instances of extremist behavior, the defense ministry is also looking into other irregularities, including missing ammunitions “in the three digit range.”
“The misconduct of some soldiers in Lithuania is a slap in the face of all those who serve the security of our country day after day in the Bundeswehr. The lapses damage the reputation of the Bundeswehr and Germany. This will be punished with all severity,” German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said in a social media post on June 16.
According to German media reports, the withdrawal of troops comes after a party got out of control in a hotel in Rukla in April this year. After excessive drinking, some soldiers reportedly got into a fight, sexually abused a comrade, and sang anti-Semitic songs.
Germany has been a regular contributor to NATO’s eFP in Lithuania since 2017. The German Army’s Panzerlehrbataillon 93 had constituted the brunt of the German presence in Lithuania since the beginning of the year.
NATO established four multinational battlegroups in 2016 in response to Russian actions in Ukraine in 2014. These battlegroups, stationed in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, are led by the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and the United States respectively.