15 Aug 2022

Ukraine training programme: New Zealand to send another 120 Defence staff

4:12 pm on 15 August 2022

New Zealand will send up to another 120 Defence staff to the UK to help train Ukraine soldiers to defend against Russia after the completion of the previous 30-strong deployment.

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Travel to the UK would be on commercial flights over the next three weeks, and the deployment would last until 30 November.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Defence Minister Peeni Henare, and Chief of Defence Force Air Marshal Kevin Short announced the move this afternoon after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

They said the deployment would enable two teams to train Ukrainian infantry with core skills for frontline combat including weapon handling, combat first aid, operational law and more. It would contribute to the UK's efforts to train 10,000 Ukrainian troops.

Ardern said soldier training was now one of the highest priorities for Ukraine.

"New Zealand is proud to stand in solidarity alongside a number of other countries to answer that call," she said.

"We have been clear that a blatant attack on a country's sovereignty and the subsequent loss of innocent lives is wrong and intolerable.

"It will be similar to the previous artillery training deployment from May, although at a much larger scale, and this deployment will be focused on infantry training."

Henare said the training would be done only at four locations in the UK, with New Zealand personnel not entering Ukraine.

The decision brings the total number of NZDF personnel deployed to support Ukraine in the war to 224, a comparable amount to partner nations like Denmark (130) and Sweden (120), Ardern said.

The decisions around New Zealand's contribution to the Ukraine war effort were weighted towards what it needed and requested, what was able to be supported by other partners in the region, and New Zealand's strengths, she said.

"What we've seen is that the calls for support have been consistent and they've been varied, but what Ukraine is often seeking is very much what we're responding to because they have a real mixture of those who have some basic training to those who have none."

Henare said there was an initial request for New Zealand to send LAVs (Light Armoured Vehicles), but he said it was inefficient and ineffective to send these vehicles - they have no spare parts, and the vehicles would require training.

"I'm of the opinion and so too are my officials that sending the LAVs will be giving them a problem instead of supporting."

The LAV was "an older piece of kit" and getting parts for them was proving difficult, he said.

Ardern said she had no current travel plans into the region or into Europe at this stage.

"Without a doubt, I'm sure your comprehension of the scale of the conflict, of its impact on the Ukrainian people, I have no doubt, is only enhanced by a visit on the ground but it would not change the level of commitment that I think New Zealand has already demonstrated and will continue to demonstrate."

The invitation had been extended but in the meantime New Zealand had continued to respond to requests and "I think that's the most meaningful thing that we can do", she said.

There is no current planning under way for Henare to go in her stead either, she said, but that was an option.

In a statement, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the deployment would support New Zealand's strategic interests and was a demonstration of the country's independent foreign policy.

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