New Zealand's support for Ukraine 'unequivocal'

·3-min read

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has shared a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, outlining New Zealand's fresh pledge of assistance.

The pair spoke on Monday night ahead of the New Zealand prime minister's trip to Europe for King Charles' Coronation on Saturday.

A readout of the meeting described it as "warm and insightful", with Mr Hipkins offering New Zealand's "unequivocal" support for Ukraine.

Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine has reshaped NZ's international outlook, forcing more engagement through the US-backed military alliance NATO and drawing Wellington closer to Washington.

Mr Hipkins is yet to reveal publicly the shape and size of New Zealand's support, which has trailed other developed nations.

"New Zealand steadfastly supports Ukraine and will continue to look for ways we can provide meaningful contributions," he said.

New Zealand's financial support to Ukraine's defence, and to humanitarian and legal assistance, is about $NZ43 million ($A40 million).

It is also training Ukrainian troops in the UK - who Mr Hipkins will visit this week - and has supplied thousands of pieces of equipment including body armour, helmets and vests.

The last contribution was made in December, timed in line with Mr Zelenskiy's virtual parliamentary address of Kiwi MPs.

David Seymour, the leader of the right-wing libertarian ACT party, has called for a marked increase from New Zealand to Ukraine's defence.

"The New Zealand government should evaluate what Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, our traditional military allies have done in this space and then ask themselves, why are we not doing our bit?" he said.

"New Zealand is not even in the game in terms of the portion of support relative to any denominator like our GDP, their need, whatever, our population. You name it, we're not there.

"You'd like to see a figure in the tens of millions."

Mr Seymour also said New Zealand should consider sending its light armoured vehicles (LAVs),

"They're screaming out for LAVs. Maybe that's something we should be thinking about introducing," he said.

Defence Minister Andrew Little met with his Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov in Germany last month at the NATO-hosted Ukraine Defence Contact Group meeting, to ascertain the country's needs in the fight against Russia.

Mr Little indicated further support was likely to be financial rather than the provision of military equipment.

"There was a recognition that New Zealand (is) a long, long way from the conflict and getting physical support can be challenging just logistically," he said.

Opposition Leader Chris Luxon has also backed the government's policy of giving aid rather than hardware.

"If they need financial assistance, we should be very open to considering what more we could do," he said.

"The most efficient way, given where we sit in the world and our capability, is probably through financial support."

Mr Hipkins does not plan to visit Ukraine alongside his trip to the UK but said he wanted to meet President Zelenskiy "when the opportunity arises".

The Labour PM said it was unlikely he would visit Kyiv when he heads back to Europe in July for the NATO Summit in Lithuania.

"I wouldn't rule out ever doing it but scheduling-wise, it's looking unlikely," he said.