Ukraine invasion: Off-duty New Zealand soldier killed in Ukraine named as Dominic Abelen

The New Zealand soldier killed while in Ukraine has been described as "strong, hardcore, handsome but extremely humble". 

Newshub understands the soldier is Dominic Abelen, who was based at Burnham Military Camp in Christchurch with the Royal NZ Infantry Regiment's 2/1 Battalion.

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) 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."

A former NZDF soldier, who was in Ukraine with the International Legion, paid tribute to the fallen colleague on social media.

"The bro was anything but scenery. Strong, hardcore, handsome but extremely humble," he wrote. 

"Never made anyone feel like sh*t and never tooted his own horn. And when it came down to it he walked the line he personally set himself.

"Best believe he died doing what he loved and was extremely good at. We will miss you brother. So much. You have left a hole that we are feeling and we could never hope to ever fill."

Private Dominic Abelen.
Private Dominic Abelen. Photo credit: Defense Visual Information Distribution Service

Tenby Powell, the former mayor of Tauranga and Colonel at NZDF, posted his condolences on Twitter to the fallen soldier. 

"It was a sad day for all New Zealanders yesterday as one of our finest was KIA [killed in action] fighting for freedom and democracy," Powell wrote. 

"My hope is, this tragic death, will bring Kiwis here closer together for general check-ins and mutual support while in situ." 

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."

Newshub's European Correspondent Lisette Reymer told AM on Thursday 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."