After three Kiwi deaths on Ukraine’s frontline, former defense minister Ron Mark says it’s time for New Zealand to open an embassy in Kiev.
New Zealander Kane Te Tai, a former Defense Forces soldier, reportedly died this week fighting for Ukraine.
Te Tai, whose death has been confirmed by a Ukrainian official but not New Zealand, is said to be the third known Kiwi death on the front lines since the outbreak of war in February 2022, after aid worker Andrew Bagshaw And soldier Dominic Abelen.
“It’s time to stop fussing. The government has made very clear its abhorrence of Putin’s regime and what they are doing,” Mark said.
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“Right now, on the backs of three brave New Zealanders paying the price, it’s time we just took that next step and said, ‘We’re not just saying we stand with Ukraine, we’re going to show our commitment to you. and we will open an embassy’.
New Zealand’s ability to help its citizens in Ukraine is limited, as the government has no diplomatic presence in the country. Assistance is provided by the New Zealand Embassy in Warsaw, Poland.
Mark, who met Te Tai while doing humanitarian work in Ukraine, said an embassy would help New Zealand rebuild Ukraine in areas where it had experience: farmland rehabilitation and mine clearance.
Flying the New Zealand flag in Kiev would also send a “very loud, clear message”.
“That would be the greatest honor and tribute we can pay to those who paid the price.”
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said opening an embassy in Kiev “was not on the agenda at the moment”.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon said it was “something to consider”.
“The bigger problem … after the war is really rebuilding Ukraine, and how New Zealand is working with other countries and maybe supporting that rebuilding.”
Gerry Brownlee, National’s foreign policy spokesman, said New Zealand should consider opening an embassy, or at least having a diplomatic presence in Ukraine.
“If you look at the reasons the government currently has for keeping an ambassador and embassy in Moscow, you would say those same conditions apply to Ukraine,” he said.
“If maintaining dialogue is so important with Russia, how can it not be important with Ukraine?”