The PM announced New Zealand will deploy a further 120 Defence Force personnel to the United Kingdom to help train Ukraine soldiers to fight against Russian forces. Video / Mark Mitchell
A Kiwi soldier has been killed in Ukraine, the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) says.
The soldier, who was on a period of leave without pay at the time, was not on active duty with the NZDF.
“At this early stage, there is still more information to be gathered in order to understand the circumstances fully,” NZDF said in a statement.
“The New Zealand Army will work closely with the family of the soldier to offer support at this deeply sad time.”
The NZ Herald understands he is Dominic Abelen, a soldier based at Burnham Military Camp in Christchurch with the Royal NZ Infantry Regiment’s 2/1 Battalion.
The soldier’s family, when approached by the Herald last night, declined to comment.
Defence Minister Peeni Henare expressed his condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the Kiwi soldier.
“I have been advised the New Zealand Army are supporting the soldier’s family through this difficult time,” he said.
The Herald understands relevant ministers have been briefed but details were scant.
The war in Ukraine has raged for six months since Russia invaded the Eastern European country.
Most of the Russian and Ukrainian forces are conсentrated in the Donbas, the industrial region of mines and factories in the nation’s east. Ukraine has vowed to drive the Russians from the territory they have seized since the start of the invasion.
According to Ukraine’s honorary consul in Auckland, more than 500 Kiwis had volunteered to fight in Ukraine despite official warnings not to join the war.
It’s believed about 20 Kiwis had remained in Ukraine after Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta’s warning in February to “leave immediately”.
Kiwi doctor Jenny Beesley, who the Herald interviewed in the war-torn country’s capital Kyiv, was one who joined the war effort.
The 39-year-old had trained as a fighter jet pilot with the Royal Air Force and joined the Number One International Company, a combat unit bringing together international volunteers and Ukrainians.
She spoke of her deployment to the Donbas region, firefights with Russian troops and coming under attack from enemy tanks and helicopters.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a further 120 NZDF personnel would be deployed to the United Kingdom to help train Ukraine soldiers to fight against Russian forces.
It adds to the 30 personnel sent over in May to train Ukrainian military personnel in operating artillery and the more than $40 million provided in financial support.
“New Zealand has been clear that we will continue to answer the call of Ukraine for practical support as they defend their homeland and people against Russia’s unjustified invasion,” Ardern said.
Two NZDF infantry training teams will teach Ukrainian personnel frontline combat, including weapon handling, combat first aid, operational law and other skills.
Henare said at the time of the announcement that no active NZDF member would enter Ukraine.
Across February and March, after the war began, the NZ Government announced several millions of dollars would be provided to the United Nations’ Ukraine Humanitarian Fund and the UN Refugee Agency.
Later in March, $5m of non-lethal military assistance was sent to Ukrainian forces, which consisted of body armour plates, helmets and camouflage vests/harness webbing.
In April, the Government deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130H Hercules transport aircraft and 50 support personnel to Europe for two months, along with another $13m of military, humanitarian and legal support.
A separate eight-person NZDF team of logistic specialists were also sent over to support the international donor coordination centre in Germany with the flow of aid and supplies to Ukraine.
In May, up to 30 NZDF personnel were deployed to the United Kingdom to help train Ukrainian military personnel in operating light artillery.
In June, another $4.5m was allocated to provide additional non-lethal equipment and supplies such as medical kits for the Ukrainian Army.