Tributes flow for New Zealand soldier killed in Ukraine: 'He didn't tell us'

·3-min read

An off-duty soldier from New Zealand who was killed in Ukraine didn't tell his family he was going over to the conflict until he was already there.

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has confirmed in a statement Corporal Dominic Abelen, 30, died in Ukraine, while he was on leave.

He had served with the NZDF for 10 years and was on leave without pay at the time of his death, according to the statement.

Corporal Dominic Abelen has died in Ukraine. The New Zealander travelled there while off-duty. Source: Twitter
Corporal Dominic Abelen has died in Ukraine. The New Zealander travelled there while off-duty. Source: Twitter

Corporal Abelen's father, Bryce Abelen, said he did not tell his family he was going to Ukraine.

"Dominic was in the New Zealand Army for 10 years but never got to fight for his country," Mr Abelen said.

"He didn't tell us he was going to Ukraine until he was there. He knew we would talk him out of it. He also knew the risks of going there but still went to fight for them."

He added his son was always looking to help others and the family does not hold a grudge against the NZDF or Ukraine's army. The family fully supports what he did.

Pictured is Corporal Dominic Abelen, the New Zealand soldier who fought in Ukraine.
The New Zealand Defence Force has confirmed Corporal Dominic Abelen was killed in Ukraine, while off-duty. Source: NZDF/Facebook via the New Zealand Herald

Soldier's nephew waiting for him to come home

Corporal Abelen's siblings also released a statement, saying he was the "embodiment of drive and power".

"Dominic, my brother is more than just another soldier, he is the most bold, brave and beautiful human with the quickest wit and freely given laugh," his siblings said.

"Our hearts are broken. He sacrificed his life for others to have a life."

While he was career-driven and a high achiever, his siblings say he was a "reliable brother", who always had their backs.

Corporal Abelen also had a nephew, who is "waiting for him to come home".

The final interview from frontlines reveals reason for trip

NZDF said it is supporting consular officials regarding options for formal identification and repatriation of the soldier. The NZDF noted it is very difficult given the circumstances in Ukraine.

Corporal Abelen's leave request did not include plans to travel to Ukraine.

Uniformed personnel are required to notify their chain of command of international travel when taking leave without pay. However, uniformed personnel are not required to check in regularly.

A man who claims to have been fighting with Corporal Abelen on the front told Stuff he was a "brave man".

The man, who was not identified but is reportedly an ex-soldier from New Zealand, said he and Corporal Abelen had been part of an operation working with Ukraine's foreign legion.

Corporal Dominic Abelen travelled to Ukraine to fight for the country's independence. Source: AP Photo
Corporal Dominic Abelen travelled to Ukraine to fight for the country's independence. Source: AP Photo

The two New Zealanders were moving just before first light when they made contact with the enemy. Corporal Abelen was reportedly directing and covering the team when he was killed.

New Zealand has offered military, logistical and financial aid to Ukraine in the wake of Russia's illegal and brutal invasion.

However, no on-duty troops have set foot on the ground, although a deployment of 120 Kiwi troops has recently headed to the UK to help train Ukrainian fighters.

Corporal Abelen reportedly used the code name 'Tolkien' to speak to Today FM just weeks before his death. During the interview he revealed he went over to Ukraine to fight for independence.

"I'm here in Ukraine helping maintain its independence and push back Russia," he said, the New Zealand Herald reported.

With AAP

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