Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand joins its international partners in condemnation of Russia’s attack on Ukraine and has immediately taken a range of measures against the Russian government.
Giving a statement today about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ardern said Russia began a “military offensive and an illegal invasion” yesterday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin declared war on Ukraine and launched a full-scale land, sea and air attack on the country.
Putin said his goal was the “demilitarisation and denazification” of Ukraine, but US President Joe Biden has asserted the evidence clearly showed Russia was the aggressor and it had no evidence for its justifications.
Ardern said: “The UK’s Ministry of Defence communicated this morning that more than 80 strikes have been carried out against Ukrainian targets and that Russian ground forces are advancing across the border on at least three axis from north and northeast, and south from Crimea.
“There are reports of attacks in a range of locations around Ukraine, including heavy shelling in eastern Ukraine and fighting in some areas, including around airports and other targets of strategic importance.
‘Unthinkable’ loss of lives
“By choosing to pursue this entirely avoidable path, an unthinkable number of innocent lives could be lost because of Russia’s decision,” she said.
New Zealand called on Russia to do what was right and immediately cease military operations, and permanently withdraw to avoid a “catastrophic and pointless loss of innocent life”, she said.
The invasion posed a significant threat to peace and security in the region and would trigger a humanitarian and refugee crisis, she said.
Russia had demonstrated a disregard for diplomacy and efforts to avoid conflict in the lead-up to the attack, she said, and “must now face the consequences of their decision to invade”.
As a permanent UN Security Council member, Russia has “displayed a flagrant disregard for international law and abdicated their responsibility to uphold global peace and security” and now must face the consequences, Ardern said.
New Zealand has immediately imposed measures in response which include targeted travel bans against Russian officials and other individuals associated with the invasion. They will be banned from obtaining visas to enter or transit New Zealand.
Secondly, this country is prohibiting the export of goods to Russian military and security forces.
Blanket ban a ‘significant step’
“While exports from New Zealand under this category are limited, a blanket ban is a significant step as it removes the ability for exporters to apply for a permit and sends a clear signal of support to Ukraine,” she said.
Finally, New Zealand has suspended bilateral ministry consultations until further notice.
Ardern says there will be a significant cost imposed on Russia for its actions. New Zealand will also consider humanitarian response options, she said.
“Finally our thoughts today are with the people in Ukraine affected by this conflict. Decades of peace and security in the region have been undermined.
“The institutions built to avoid conflict have been threatened and we stand resolute in our support for those who now bear the brunt of Russia’s decisions.”
She again called for Russia to cease military actions and return to diplomatic negotiations to resolve the conflict.
During questions from journalists, Ardern said New Zealand was not constrained by being unable to launch autonomous sanctions.
“There are additional measures that we can take. Obviously already you’ll see those targeted travel bans, we do have the ability to extend those as required and as those involved with this activity grows,” she said.
“We also have the ability to continue to restrict the amount of diplomatic engagement that we have … and obviously the autonomous sanction regimes that have been proposed in the past don’t for instance cover situations of human rights violations.”
Ardern admitted there were some limitations on economic sanctions New Zealand could impose, but the government continued to get advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the tools that could be used and “we want them all to be on the table”.
The measures New Zealand has imposed are limited but send a very clear message.
“What this does say is that there’s no ability to apply or seek to export … this is a blanket ban,” she says.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.