Missing New Zealander in Ukraine Andrew Bagshaw likely to be in Russian hands - acquaintance

Finn Blackwell for RNZ

The search continues for the son of two prominent New Zealand doctors reported missing while working in Ukraine.

Andrew Bagshaw, son of well-known Christchurch doctors Philip and Sue Bagshaw, was reported missing on Monday.

He had been volunteering to assist the people of Ukraine by delivering humanitarian aid.

Grzegorz Rybak was with Bagshaw, helping evacuate people and animals from the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

He speaks English, Polish and Russian, and translated for Bagshaw as they worked to provide relief for the region.

He said the humanitarian situation there was harrowing.

"We were delivering food, sanitary pads, encouraging people to evacuate," he said.

Rybak said there had been those reluctant to leave their homes and belongings behind.

Andrew's parents said he volunteered in Ukraine because it was the morally right thing to do.

Rybak said he was hugely respected for his work there. He had been sharing a flat with Bagshaw for two weeks. He said the people still searching for him were exhausted, both physically and emotionally, but they're keeping up the search as best they can.

"The police are looking for him, the army is looking for him, he's gained huge respect," he said.

Grzegorz said Andrew showed humanity at the highest level through the work he was doing in Bakhmut.

While Grzegorz does not know what happened to Bagshaw, he believed if he was alive he was likely in Russian hands.

The difficulty in tracking him down, Grzegorz said, was the lack of cell phone reception or electricity throughout the region.

He hoped his friend was in hiding.

"I hope that he will be found in a cellar somewhere. I don't say it's optimistic but, of course, hope does last."

Philip and Sue Bagshaw said agencies from New Zealand and the UK, where their son was born, were working hard to find him.

Former Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said it was likely the efforts to find Bagshaw were being co-ordinated by the UK.

The British government, which had far more diplomatic representation in the area, would be doing as much as they could, working with Ukrainians and the aid organisations to locate Bagshaw, he said.

So far, the New Zealand government had taken an appropriate level of effort in responding to the war in Ukraine, Mapp said.

New Zealand has supplied trainers and intelligence officers to support the Ukrainian army, as well as humanitarian aid.

Andrew's parents said their son was an intelligent, independently minded person who they love dearly, and they were grateful to everyone who was searching for him.

A British aid worker, Christopher Parry, is also missing in Ukraine and disappeared at the same time as Andrew Bagshaw.