Former NZ soldier to fight in Ukraine, defying Govt warnings

A former New Zealand soldier wants to fight on the frontlines of Ukraine, defying Government warnings.

Cedric Waitere told 1News that he’s been inspired by the people of Ukraine, who are "up against the odds" but are refusing to back down to Russia.

He points to the babushkas, or elderly women, who are making candles for the troops hiding in dugouts.

"I mean, she has no training and experience when it comes to the art of war but here she is willingly, even at her age, to do as the most minimalist things such as a little candle.

"It's the little things that count. I recognise those things coming from the people of Ukraine.

"I want to be able to be one of those persons who can help."

The 45-year-old served with 2nd/1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment based in Burnham.

From 1997 until 2000, he trained alongside foreign forces, helped protect US President Bill Clinton and was involved in search and rescues.

Waitere was supposed to go to East Timor to fight in 1999 but failed the running test. He would've been serving alongside his friend, Private Leonard Manning, who was shot dead by pro-Indonesian militia.

He said Manning's death "rung home the true effects and the nature of being in a theatre of war".

"The memories come back to those losses as if they were just yesterday. I just have to speak of it and it all does come flooding back," said Waitere as tears ran down his face.

The Ukraine government has given Waitere sign-off to go, but New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned against it, saying Ukraine is extremely dangerous and volatile.

"There is a real risk to life. New Zealanders currently in Ukraine are advised to depart as soon as it is safe to do so," a ministry spokesperson said.

"The New Zealand Government is severely limited in its ability to provide consular assistance to New Zealand citizens in Ukraine."

Two Kiwis have already been shot dead on the frontlines. Dominic Abelen was on leave as a corporal in the New Zealand Defence Force when he was killed leading an assault on Russian-controlled trenches. Andrew Bagshaw was attempting to rescue an elderly woman from Soledar when his car was hit by an artillery shell.

"If anything, for me it gives me more determination hearing about his loss adding to the tally," said Waitere.

Having never been in combat before, he said it wasn’t about having "unfinished business" but a "willingness to employ the skills and knowledge that I’ve learned within the team and the environment of the Defence Force".

Other men who have also served are wanting to join the mission, and have set up a Givealittle page to pay for flights and supplies.

Waitere is expected to travel to Ukraine alone within the next fortnight, leaving behind his job as a truck driver in Waikato.

"I have no compunction if I have to pick up the rifle and aim it down range. We will do what must be done or is needed in order to obtain our other goals in future," said Waitere.


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