Russia invasion: New Zealand dispatches 50 troops to Europe to assist with logistics of moving weapons into Ukraine

The Government is dispatching 50 New Zealand Defence Force troops to Europe to assist with the logistics of moving weapons and aid into Ukraine. 

New Zealand will also donate an additional $13 million to support the United Kingdom in procuring equipment for the Ukrainian military as it fights off Russia's invasion that began in February.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, speaking after Cabinet met on Monday, said the Government will deploy a Defence Force C-130 Hercules aircraft with the 50 personnel to Europe on Wednesday for two months. 

A further eight Defence Force logistic specialists will be sent to Germany to support the international donation coordination centre with the flow of aid and supplies to Ukraine. 

The C-130 will join a chain of military aircraft from partner nations, travelling throughout Europe carrying equipment and supplies to key distribution centres. But at no point will New Zealand troops enter Ukraine.

The $13.1 million will go towards military and legal and human rights support, including $7.5 million for weapons and ammunition procurement by the UK, $4.1 million to support commercial satellite access for Ukraine forces, $1 million to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and $500,000 for the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court.

"Our support is to assist the Ukraine Army to repel a brutal Russian invasion because peace in the region of Europe is essential for global stability," Ardern said on Monday. 

"Such a blatant attack on a country's sovereignty is a threat to all of us and that's why we too have a role to play," she said of Russia's invasion. 

"The global response has seen an unprecedented amount of military support pledged for Ukraine, and more help to transport and distribute it is urgently needed, and so we will do our bit to help."

It follows the deployment of nine New Zealand Defence Force analysts to the UK and Belgium to assist Ukraine. The Defence Force is also helping European partners by gathering intelligence about the war during their nighttime hours.

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

Last month New Zealand donated $5 million to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) to support Ukraine with 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. 

Ukraine is not a member of NATO, meaning there was no legal obligation for NATO countries to defend it after Russia invaded in February. Russia has long sought assurances that its former Soviet neighbour would not join the military alliance.

While New New Zealand is not a member of NATO, it is one of a few countries referred to as "partners across the globe" that contribute to NATO-led defence operations. 

The Government also passed the Russia Sanctions Act, giving it power to freeze the assets of Russian President Vladimir 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 travelling to New Zealand or moving their money and assets to escape sanctions imposed by other countries. 

The Government ramped up its response last week by slapping Russian goods with a 35 percent import tax over alleged war "atrocities" committed in the Ukrainian town of Bucha, where a mass grave was discovered a month after the area was taken over by Russian troops. 

The Government also banned the export of industrial products such as ICT equipment and engines.

"Russia will be held to account," Ardern said

Alongside 41 other countries, New Zealand announced its support for the International Criminal Court's investigation into war crimes committed by Russia, and provided funding to the investigation.

Russia responded by blacklisting New Zealand. Ardern, along with all MPs, spy chiefs and Defence Force leaders, were banned from entering Russia in retaliation for sanctions. The same applied to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and 228 other influential Australians.