December 10, 2023

Why PM Hipkins turned down Ukrainian President Zelensky’s invite to Kyiv while in Europe

It's the second time New Zealand has turned down President Volodymyr Zelensky's invitation.

The Prime Minister will not be visiting Ukraine during his time in Europe, with New Zealand turning down President Volodymyr Zelensky’s invite for the second time. 

It comes as the war marks its 500th day, with the United States making the decision to supply Ukraine with highly-controversial cluster bombs. 

Five-hundred torturous days. A blur of sorrow and suffering and unfathomable strength.

President Zelensky marked the grim milestone with a visit to Snake Island, a symbol of Ukrainian resistance since day one of this war. 

The nation’s defiance is unshaken, but their counter-offensive has stalled. 

On Sunday, the United States made the divisive decision to supply Ukraine with cluster bombs. 

It’s a necessary evil for a nation running out of ammunition, President Joe Biden reasoned.

“They either have the weapons to stop the Russians now from their… keep them from stopping the Ukrainian offensive through these areas, or they don’t. And I think they needed them.”

Cluster bombs are controversial because they scatter small explosives over a wide area and can kill indiscriminately. 

A percentage of cluster bombs don’t explode instantly. Instead they lie dormant and hidden, posing a threat to civilians for decades to come. 

For those reasons, more than 120 countries have banned them, including the United Kingdom and Aotearoa. 

“New Zealand’s position is very clear on cluster munitions, they’re indiscriminate, they cause huge damage to innocent people potentially, and they can have a long-lasting effect as well,” Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said. 

Hipkins had been invited to visit Zelensky in Kyiv this week, but just as former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did last year, he has turned him down. 

“Ultimately it came down to logistics, it’s a pretty quick trip, and it would add several days to the trip.”

New Zealand’s priorities were laid bare, as Zelensky continues his 500-day fight to shine a light on the suffering in his country.

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