NZDF soldiers training Ukrainians for combat in United Kingdom paid first visit by Chris Hipkins since programme began

One of the Prime Minister's first duties in London was to visit the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) camp where Kiwi soldiers are training Ukranians for combat.

It's the first New Zealand prime ministerial visit the soldiers have had since the training programme began in June. 

Chris Hipkins' flying visit to Wiltshire is a big deal for the soldiers training at the army camp.

"Having a Prime Minister here says you better do this and do it right," said NZDF Major Mike Coom. 

Hipkins' visit is to meet the Ukrainians preparing for war and the Kiwis tasked with teaching them those vital skills.

"It is confronting, but that is what they are dealing with," Hipkins said. 

Many of the Ukrainians are civilians, like one man who was a copywriter for a marketing firm but is now gearing up for the fight of his life. 

"It's a bit scary., I [would be lying] to you if I say that I'm absolutely calm about this."

Since June last year, 430 NZDF personnel have been deployed to help Ukraine.

Kiwi soldiers have trained more than 1000 members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine at the camp to date. With their deployment being extended by another year, those numbers will climb. 

"We'll continue to play our part to train as many as we can, and as quickly as we can," Hipkins said. 

And the UK's grateful for it.

"[It is] something we seek to reciprocate by making sure we stand next to you over your regional security concerns," said UK Minister for Armed Forces and Veterans James Heappey. 

One Ukrainian soldier said: "A big thank you to all [of] New Zealand for your support, please keep supporting Ukraine." 

The sense of duty and pride in New Zealand's involvement with Ukraine's bloody battle against Russia was palpable as the Kiwis farewelled their Prime Minister with a haka.

Hipkins' visit comes as Russia accuses Ukraine of trying to assassinate President Vladimir Putin in a drone attack on the Kremlin.

The image of the burning Kremlin, President Putin's fortress, could mark a huge escalation in this war, but Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said it had nothing to do with him.

"We don't attack Putin or Moscow, we fight on our territory," Zelensky said.

But if not Ukraine, then who?

"We don't have, you know, enough weapons for this," he said. 

The US is also treating Russia's claim with caution.

"I've seen the reports, I can't in any way validate them. We simply don't know. I would take anything coming out of the Kremlin with a very large shaker of salt," said United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 

Russia has a history of false flag operations, using self-inflicted attacks to justify escalation, like the Russian apartment bombings in 1999.