Henare visits Kyiv, reiterates Ukraine commitment

By Contributor

Peeni Henare meets with Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov at the country's Wall of Remembrance of the Fallen in Kyiv. Photo / Supplied

By Wena Harawira and Will Trafford

Defence Minister Peeni Henare has made the first visit to Ukraine by a government minister, since Russia invaded the country on February, 24.

Henare travelled via Poland, meeting with Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov in the capital Kyiv, the minister saying it was important to show Aotearoa stands in solidarity with the country over Moscow’s invasion.

“By visiting both Poland and Ukraine in particular, it continues to reinforce the government's message of standing firmly in support of Ukraine, and what is the illegal invasion of Russia, into Ukraine.” Henare said following bilateral discussions with the two allies.

“Being able to show up in person is a reiteration or underscores, in a strong way, our commitment to this particular kaupapa.”

Henare (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine) visited Kyiv’s memorial wall displaying the faces of the tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers who’ve died since the Kremlin first invaded Ukraine’s southern-most state of Crimea in 2014.

“The tragic nature of this conflict and the loss inflicted in such a beautiful country really struck home to me.” Henare said.

“Seeing all those faces, the tragedy of war, sets in.”

Henare reaffirmed New Zealand’s commitment to Kyiv, in the form of humanitarian aid - so far to the tune of around $60 million, in addition to training of Ukrainian soldiers in the United Kingdom.

Kyiv conceded Aotearoa didn’t necessarily have the weapons its soldiers need according to Henare, but they reiterated a need for military support.

“So we've extended our training into the midway point of next year, we've continued to offer more financial support, in particular with a focus on the humanitarian consequences of such a conflict.” Henare said

“Right now, we aren’t providing any military hardware directly from New Zealand… for anything further, it'll need to be a discussion between myself and my colleagues and cabinet.”

The country’s notoriously cold winter months characterised by below freezing temperatures might serve to contain the conflict within Ukraine's borders for now according the Henare, but that represented its own challenges for Ukraine.

“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 mindset of ‘we can win, we will win, and we must win’,” Henare said.

New Zealand pledged continued economic sanctions against the Russian state, with more than 1200 Russian individuals and entities falling under commercial and financial penalties so far.

The government would also seek to hold Russia accountable in the international criminal courts for war crimes committed by Moscow or its proxies.

“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 - that is what this visit was about,” he said.

Meeting his Polish counterpart Henare said he extended New Zealand’s condolences for the death of two polish citizens hit by a wayward anti-air missile on the country’s border with Ukraine last week.

The incident occurred during Russia’s biggest aerial bombardment of Ukraine’s territory since the war began.

After several high-profile failures in Russia’s war effort, Henare said the resolution to the conflict was in the hands of Moscow.

“There is one quick way for this conflict to end and that is for Russia to reverse course and immediately withdraw from Ukraine,”

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