Death of NZ soldier 'strengthened desire' of Kiwi fighters to help Ukraine fight Russia - Newshub Europe correspondent Lisette Reymer

Kiwi soldiers are more motivated than ever to get back to Ukraine and help after the death of a New Zealand soldier, Newshub's European Correspondent Lisette Reymer says. 

The New Zealand Defence Force announced on Wednesday evening it received reports a Kiwi soldier, who was on leave, had been killed in Ukraine.

"The soldier was on a period of leave without pay at the time and was not on active duty with the NZDF," a statement said. 

"At this early stage, there is still more information to be gathered in order to understand the circumstances fully."

Reymer told AM on Wednesday around 100 former and current New Zealand Defence Force soldiers have been in Ukraine. 

"Kiwis weren't encouraged, in fact, they were discouraged from going to Ukraine since the war started, but many have," Reymer told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green. 

"I was speaking to one of them overnight who has now just returned to New Zealand after doing a couple of months in Ukraine. They saw this news and they said to me that it has only strengthened their desire to get back to Ukraine because it has reiterated just what is at stake and just how much there is yet to do in Ukraine."

The New Zealand Government has deployed Defence Force personnel to Europe to support Ukraine after it was invaded by Russia in February. However, no personnel have been sent into Ukrainian territory.

Reymer said many of the soldiers in Ukraine, who are there on an unofficial basis, aren't on the front line. 

"Very few of them are [on the front line], and most of them are going to help with the humanitarian effort to help train the Ukrainian soldiers," she said. 

"At times, they're helping to get the refugees to safety and help them with their journey back across the border. So there are many ways they are helping in this war effort." 

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been ongoing for six months, and when the war first started back in February, Reymer reported from the ground in the eastern European country.

When she was on the ground in Ukraine, Reymer said she saw thousands of soldiers from other countries helping Ukraine in an unofficial capacity.  

"I think most of the time it was easier for us to find the foreign soldiers and to speak to them than it was to actually speak to the Ukrainian ones," Reymer said. 

"A lot of the Foreign Legion was more willing to talk about what they are there to achieve and what prompted them to travel over there. Thousands of foreigners have answered the call from President Zelensky, that was made very early on for them to come and help in the war effort."

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky Photo credit: Reuters

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky started the Foreign Legion of Ukraine, which gave foreign soldiers the opportunity to leave their own countries and help in an unofficial capacity.

"They essentially become part of the Ukrainian army. They were given a salary that provided weapons and ammunition. They do have to prove they have a military background. They have to prove their combat experience. They have to do a background check. So there are thousands that have done that," Reymer told AM. 

"But yes, as you say, there are also others that have just come .... off their own will, off their own bat and not joined up with that legion."

Defence Minister Peeni Henare expressed his condolences to the soldier in a statement on Wednesday evening.

"I express my condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the New Zealand soldier who is reported to have died in Ukraine while on leave from the army," he said.

"I have been advised the New Zealand Army are supporting the soldier's family through this difficult time."

Watch the full interview with Lisette Reymer above.