Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked New Zealand for its first contribution towards Ukraine’s defence in nine months.

New Zealand’s coalition Government timed the second anniversary of Russia’s illegal ground invasion of Ukraine with an announcement of $25.9 million in assistance, and an extension of its military training programme.

Total financial support from Wellington — on military aid, humanitarian support, legal challenges and reconstruction efforts — totalled just over $100 million in the past two years.

Defence Minister Judith Collins said New Zealand’s deployment — previously based in the United Kingdom — would in July “evolve to match the changing needs of Ukraine and its partners” and train troops as needed across Europe, although not inside Ukraine.

“Up to 97 NZDF personnel will continue to train Ukrainian soldiers, and provide intelligence, liaison and logistics support,” she said.

Kiwi defence personnel will train Ukrainian troops in combat casualty care, combat engineering, leadership and maritime explosive ordnance device training.

The funding includes $6.5 million for lethal aid, through the UK’s International Fund for Ukraine, and $7 million worth of humanitarian and reconstruction support.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said New Zealand stood by Ukraine as the war “has had a horrific human cost, caused immense suffering and has significantly impacted regional and global stability”.

“It demonstrates New Zealand’s unwavering support for Ukraine, and our serious commitment to defending an international rules-based system that reflects our values and supports our interests,” Peters said.

This new package does not include any military equipment, despite Peters saying last year the defence force was currently making an assessment of what it could give, based on what it doesn’t need.

Zelensky placed his thanks for the “timely support” on social media.

“I appreciate New Zealand’s continued and steadfast support for Ukraine, which demonstrates that geographical distance doesn’t matter when it comes to defending shared values of freedom and international law,” he said.

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