24 Feb 2023

Government announces further Russia sanctions on anniversary of invasion

11:16 am on 24 February 2023
Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta continued to call on Russia to abide by international obligations. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The government has announced another suite of sanctions against Russia, targeting individuals with strategic relevance to Russia and proximity to Vladimir Putin.

The announcement coincides with the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Over the last year, this conflict has cost thousands of innocent lives, uprooted families, transformed once peaceful cities into battlegrounds, and destroyed livelihoods," said Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

The latest round of sanctions targets 87 individuals, including members of the Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation, who Mahuta said "sought to legitimise the attack on Ukraine's sovereignty through sham referenda in the illegally annexed regions of Ukraine."

It also targets military personnel who have had an active role in the conflict.

Mahuta said it was the second largest round of sanctions yet, and as with other sanctions, these would automatically extend to relatives and associates.

Since passing the Russia Sanctions Act in March 2022, New Zealand has sanctioned more than 1000 individuals, 300 entities, and implemented a number of trade measures.

Speaking to Morning Report, Mahuta said this round of sanctions was just the latest in a long-running campaign.

"We've been doing that all the way along over this past year to ensure we're acting in tandem to identify individuals who're supporting Russia's aggression, to ensure that they have sanctions placed against them."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had warned this week that Washington had information suggesting China might provide lethal war assistance to Russia.

Mahuta would not say directly whether New Zealand would sanction China if it did so, only going so far as to say other states had faced sanctions as a result of their support.

"We have enacted sanctions against Belarus, against Iran, where it has been proven that they're supporting Russia's aggression and we deal with those matters based on facts and evidence," she said.

"There's a lot of speculation about who other third parties are supporting Russia's aggression. Where it has been proven we have taken action."

Mahuta said one year on since the conflict began, the message to Russia remained the same.

"We continue to call on Russia to act consistently [with] its international obligations, cease Russia's military aggression, withdraw troops and then return to meaningful diplomatic negotiations."

Defence Minister Andrew Little said New Zealand will continue to look for ways to support Ukraine.

A dawn service was held on the Wellington waterfront this morning to mark one year since Russia's invasion.

In that year, it was estimated 100,000 Russian and 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured.

The European Union delegation organised this morning's event, which ended with those gathered throwing sunflowers into the harbour.

Little said Ukraine could not win the war alone.

So far, New Zealand has provided combat training to Ukraine fighters in the UK, along with financial support.

EU doing all it can to pressure Russia - ambassador

EU Ambassador to New Zealand Nina Obermaier said Ukraine needed to come out of the war as "an independent and sovereign nation" and the European Union together with its partners, including New Zealand, would do everything in their power to support it.

Russia needed to withdraw all its troops from Ukraine's territory and cease all hostilities. Asked if that meant withdrawing from regions such as Crimea, she said it would be up to Ukraine to set out the terms of any settlement.

She said Russia was still committing daily attacks on innocent civilians and carrying out the shelling of critical infrastructure.

"At the moment we do not see the conditions for negotiations fulfilled and hopefully this will change in the future."

The EU has just adopted its 10th set of sanctions on Russia and was working to keep it as isolated as possible within the international community.

On China, she said the EU hoped it would meet its special responsibilities as a major power and a permanent member of the UN's Security Council.

If China began supplying arms to Russia it would have repercussions but it was too early to say what the international response might be, she said.

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