A Kiwi humanitarian on the ground in Ukraine has said that he is “surprised” by the Government's stance on Kiwis travelling to the war-torn country.
Following the death of off-duty Kiwi soldier, Dominic Abelen, on the frontlines of the conflict, Jacinda Ardern warned Kiwis not to travel to Ukraine, saying “we can’t help you” if something goes wrong.
Former soldier and Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell runs a humanitarian charity called Kiwi Care where he works to move vital aid in, and vulnerable citizens out of Ukraine.
He was surprised by the statement made by the Prime Minister.
"We were all very surprised by the Prime Minister's statement in respect of Dominic and it surprised us for a number of reasons," he said.
"One, we’ve sent 120 of our finest to the UK to train Ukrainian regiments and as a consequence of that training, knowing what they are going to go through, they will lift significantly in terms of their professional skill," said Powell.
He believes that when it comes to people helping the humanitarian effort in Ukraine, the Government should be more supportive as they are not involved with combat operations.
“So I find it a little bit odd that on the one hand, we are doing that but on the other, the PM is saying you’re on your own in Ukraine New Zealanders, even though you may be just helping with humanitarian aid, you may be just helping with evacuations and you’re not involved in combat operations, I find that very strange as we all did and confusing, to be honest,” Powell said.
With the NZDF continuing to send troops to the UK to help train the Ukrainian Army, Powell can see that New Zealand has taken a clear side in the conflict and finds it hypocritical that the government won't help those there off their own backs.
“The fact we are decisively engaged in this war, we have sent members of the artillery unit to train on 105 howitzers and now we have sent 120 instructors, we talk about them being soldiers but clearly they are instructors with rank who are going to train Ukrainian regiments in some form in the UK, this is very open,” he said.
“So we are there, we have made a call, this is the side we are on. It seems odd then for those New Zealanders who want to go and help in some way for the Government to say you’re on your own entirely, we are just confused by that.”
It is currently unknown how many Kiwis are in Ukraine, it’s hard to tell as none of them have been approved by the NZDF to travel to the warzone.
It is still the official stance of the Government that travelling to fight against Russia is against the rules.
The Government has so far been unable to repatriate Abelen’s body as it is thought to be in Russian hands.