Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says expelling the Russian ambassador remains an option, but it would not have the most impact of the actions New Zealand can take to condemn the Russian invasion.
MPs are debating whether they can summons Ambassador Georgii Zuev for questioning, after he has twice rebuffed their requests to discuss the war in Ukraine.
Ardern told RNZ Morning Report that it is a current discussion by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and it would be “very unusual” for her to interfere in it.
Ardern said when it is deliberating, the committee is likely to keep in mind the fact that the first time they summonsed the Russian ambassador the request was rejected and the second time it was ignored.
New Zealand has not expelled the Russian ambassador and Ardern said she believes only one country has done so because there are other measures that have more impact on this conflict.
However, she did not rule out the ambassador being expelled in the future.
She said economic sanctions remain a far more powerful stance.
“When we’ve been engaging with our Ukraine counterparts, the focus for them, very much at the moment on economic sanctions, they can see it as having an impact, they want everyone to continue the pressure.”
Appearing before committee ‘minimum’ – Brownlee
However, National’s foreign affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee said appearing before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee was the least Russia’s ambassador could do.
Brownlee said the committee wanted to get the ambassador to appear after the Russian embassy in New Zealand put fake news about what was happening in Ukraine on social media.
“So he’s been asked to come to the committee for that to have a talk about that, that’s the minimum thing that he should do, otherwise what’s the point in having him here?”
Brownlee said there was an ongoing discussion about what happens from this point in terms of his appearing before the committee, but he saw it as a bare minimum.
“What is the point in having the guy in New Zealand if it’s not for us to at least put him on the mat over what we see his government has done, or want to be able to tell him his government is doing, is completely wrong.
“He is Vladimir Putin’s mouthpiece in New Zealand and he is able to sit here, get onto the social media, do all sorts of activities in that social media, pushing that Russian line [that] the rest of the world is making all this up and it’s not nearly as bad as it seems – no one believes that.”
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.