Ukraine war: New Zealand to dispatch Defence Force analysts to Europe, gather intelligence during 'time zone difference'

The Government is dispatching nine Defence Force analysts to Europe to assist with the response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

The New Zealand Defence Force will also help European partners by gathering intelligence about the war during their night time hours, "taking advantage of the time zone difference". 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcement during her post-Cabinet press conference on Monday. 

"Cabinet has confirmed an immediate deployment of nine New Zealand Defence Force personnel to the United Kingdom and Belgium to support our partners in intelligence and engagement work for the next three months," Ardern said. 

"Seven New Zealand Defence Force intelligence analysts will go to the United Kingdom to assist with the heightened demand for intelligence assessments. 

"Some of our people will directly support intelligence work on the Ukraine war and some will join existing teams and focus on other parts of the world in order to free up capability within the UK teams. 

"Two other officers will deploy to the UK and Belgium to enhance our engagement with and our understanding of partner activities related to Ukraine. 

"One will work with the existing Defence Attaché and New Zealand military representative to NATO and one will work within the UK's permanent joint headquarters."

Ardern said five will be involved in looking at satellite imagery.

Cabinet has also approved the use of the Defence Force's intelligence capabilities for three months to support the UK and other European partners, "taking advantage of the time zone difference to help with key tasks during their night time and our day time". 

It comes a week after the Government announced $5 million for NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organisation] towards non-lethal military aid. It would be primarily directed to the NATO Trust Fund which provides fuel, military rations, communications and military first aid kits to support Ukraine. 

The New Zealand Defence Force would also provide 1066 body armour plates to the Ukrainian forces, along with 473 helmets and 571 camouflage vests. 

Ardern said on Monday some of the $5 million will be spent on communications equipment - a direct request from Ukraine, after she spoke to her Ukrainian counterpart Denys Shmyhal last weekend. 

"New Zealand has secured communications equipment to provide to Ukraine and I'd like to acknowledge Tait Communications which has made it possible for us to respond to this specific request," Ardern said. 

"This will come from the $5 million contribution announced last week, with the remainder going to the NATO fund," she said, adding that it will likely be shipped in the first week of April.

The body armour body equipment will be dispatched to Australia on Tuesday and will then be sent onwards to Ukraine this week. The equipment will be flown by Defence Force's Boeing 757 to Australia, then on to Europe via a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 aircraft. 

The Government had until last week only contributed aid funding to Ukraine, after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the former Soviet nation on February 24. 

Earlier this month, the Government announced another $4 million in humanitarian support to help Ukrainians affected by Russia's invasion, bringing the total aid contribution to $6 million. 

Last week's funding announcement for NATO brought New Zealand's response to the Ukraine crisis to more than $10 million. 

The Government first responded to the invasion in February by banning the export of goods intended for use by the Russian and Belarus military and security forces, and imposing travel bans.

The Government then joined its allies by imposing sanctions on Russians associated with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Russia Sanctions Act gives the Government power to freeze the assets of Putin and 12 members of his Security Council, as well as prohibit their vessels and aircraft. The law also bans certain people and companies from moving their money and assets to New Zealand to escape sanctions imposed by other countries. 

Ardern said 460 individuals and entities have so far been targeted in the sanctions, and more targets will be announced in the coming weeks. 

"We know that sanctions globally have been making it harder for the Russian regime to fund its war. The rouble has collapsed in value and Russia is on its way out from being in the top 20 economies in the world," Ardern said. 

"New Zealand is playing its part."

New Zealand has also opened up a special fast-tracked visa for Ukrainian Kiwis to bring their wider family here to shelter from the war.

Ardern said 264 applications have been made so far and 46 have been issued.

According to the United Nations, more than 1100 Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the conflict, while more than 10 million Ukrainians have been displaced, including some 3.7 million who have fled to neighbouring countries. 

Most of the arrivals have been women and children. All men aged between 18 and 60 have been prevented from leaving Ukraine to stay and fight.