NZDF deploys more personnel to aid Ukraine; Ardern off to the US

By Mana Wikaire-Lewis

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced further aid to Ukraine.

With Defence Minister Peeni Henare and Chief of Defence Air Marshal Kevin Short at the post-cabinet press conference this afternoon, Ardern said the cabinet had confirmed New Zealand would make a further deployment of 30 Defence Force personnel to support the Ukrainian armed forces against Russia's invasion. 

Soldiers will be stationed in the United Kingdom until the end of July.

"The specific purpose will be to help train Ukrainian soldiers in using a particular type of artillery, that New Zealand soldiers are familiar and well-versed in."

That artillery is the L119 105mm Light Gun/Howitzer. "New Zealand has been asked specifically to provide the training team for this purpose.

"There are very few armed forces that could provide this training, which is why New Zealand has been specifically called upon."

US trade mission

Henare said the move would be welcomed by international partners "who have already recognised our contribution to date".

A Ukraine contact group that includes nearly 40 countries, which Henare will be attending, will meet at midnight tonight to discuss the Ukraine conflict.

The UK will coordinate the airlift to take the personnel over, with the NZDF personnel not entering Ukraine during the training. 

The prime minister will also leave for the United States later today in her second trade mission this year.

During her trip, Ardern will be meeting several members of the US Congress, the United Nations Secretary-General in New York City, and a launch event for sustainable meat exports. 

"I'll be particularly honoured to deliver the Harvard commencement speech, and meet with New Zealand students and staff at Harvard," she said.

"I'll be taking a simple message: we are open for business and, of course, we're open for recreation."