Auckland: Defence Minister Peeni Henare has visited Ukraine and Poland, holding talks with his Ministerial counterparts. During the talks minister Henare reaffirmed New Zealand’s unwavering support for the Ukrainian defence against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion.

The visit was a further demonstration of New Zealand’s ongoing support to the people of Ukraine and acknowledgment of the brave Ukrainian self-defence efforts more than 267 days since Russia’s unjustified and illegal invasion.

While in Kyiv, Peeni Henare paid his respects to those who have lost their lives in the war at the Wall of Remembrance of the Fallen for Ukraine, and held bilateral talks with the Ukrainian Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov.

“Visiting Kyiv sends a strong message that New Zealand stands with the people of Ukraine and that our support for the Ukrainian defensive effort against Russia’s illegal invasion is unwavering,” Peeni Henare said.

“I reiterated New Zealand’s strong support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and its people, and affirm our ongoing unequivocal condemnation of Russia’s aggression.

“In my meeting with Defence Minister Reznikov we discussed New Zealand’s recent extension of the infantry training support mission in the UK for Ukrainian troops out to July 2023. Minister Reznikov expressed his gratitude for the extension of the training mission and noted that it was making a difference on the ground.

“Defence Minister Reznikov thanked the New Zealand Government for the support provided to date and acknowledged the significance of New Zealand’s contribution. Mr Reznikov was appreciative of New Zealand’s support especially military assistance, and acknowledged we are a small country from the other side of the world.

“To be here to see for myself and hear first-hand the sacrifice of Ukrainian citizens when fighting for their territorial integrity is humbling.  It also highlights why the New Zealand Government continues to show its support.

“Mr Reznikov said the number one challenge for them is winter and getting through it, however they have been extremely successful so far due to their mind set of we can win, we will win, and we must win.

“I am proud to be here on behalf of New Zealand. Our efforts have been well received. It’s a sobering reminder for us all of the challenge of the conflict and why it is important to push for de-escalation and diplomacy.”

Mr Henare said “What stood out for me is their determination to succeed in the conflict ahead of them and their steadfastness; their morale is very high,” Peeni Henare said.

Minister Henare also visited Poland where he met with Minister of National Defence Mariusz Błaszczak.

“The recent missile strike in Poland was an unfortunate incident and underlines the dangers created by Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. I expressed New Zealand’s condolences for the loss of life from the incident,” Peeni Henare said.

“New Zealand and Poland share the same values on Ukraine, and so Mr Blaszczak was very appreciative of the assistance from NZ to Ukraine.

“We agreed to continue to have open conversations into the future around what more we can do to help Ukrainian resilience and the rebuild effort,” Peeni Henare said.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in late February New Zealand has sanctioned over 1200 Russian individuals and entities and provided over $60 million in military, diplomatic, legal and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

“Our people are making an important contribution through our training, logistics and intelligence support to partners, and that is where we see the New Zealand Defence Force as being able to best support Ukraine,” Peeni Henare said.

“This support is paying off. Ukraine is making advances, but now is not the time to rest on our laurels.

“I want to be clear that while the New Zealand Defence Force will not be entering Ukraine to fight, we remain committed to contributing our skills and expertise to the defensive effort.

“But there is one quick way for this conflict to end and that is for Russia to reverse course and immediately withdraw from Ukraine.

“Principles matter, and while Aotearoa might be on the other side of the world and far removed from the fighting, we are committed to upholding the rules of international law and the United Nations Charter and do what we can to support – that is what this visit was about,” Peeni Henare said.

Minister Henare will now head to Cambodia to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) in Siem Reap.

By Shadab

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