Government to urgently pass legislation to freeze Russian assets, close New Zealand airspace and waters to Russian planes and ships
The government will urgently pass sanctions legislation that could freeze Russian assets and close the country’s airspace and waters to Russian planes and ships, significantly bolstering New Zealand’s response to the invasion of Ukraine.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, announcing the decision on Monday afternoon, said New Zealand must act outside the United Nations (UN) sanctions regime, previously favored by the government, because Russia had vetoed it. to a resolution condemning his attack at the UN Security Council.
But the law – which will be limited to the Russia-Ukraine conflict – will not allow the government to adopt unilateral sanctions more broadly, as critics of the government’s approach have argued.
“Despite international condemnation, and the resilience and resistance of the Ukrainian people, Russia’s assault continues, and so does our pressure,” Ardern told a news conference.
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“We would have liked to not have had to take this step. We would have hoped to be able to use the power of our multilateral organizations. But Russia’s unprecedented actions and the current limitations of the multilateral system have compelled us to act in this way.
Russia’s sanctions regime would allow the government to sanction people, companies and assets related to the invasion or of “economic or strategic importance” to the country. Sanctions could also be applied to trade, financial institutions and the capacity of Russian-owned superyachts and aircraft entering New Zealand.
Ardern said the amount of Russian investment in New Zealand was around $40 million and that Russian oligarchs could be targeted under the new law.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta speaks on the Russia Sanctions Bill that the government will seek to pass this week.
“It’s not just about what is already invested here, but what could be invested here, assets that could be transferred to New Zealand, [and] ensuring that we do not become a refuge for those who are already sanctioned abroad.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also released on Monday the list of 100 Russian and other officials linked to the invasion who have been barred from entering New Zealand. The first name on the list was Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the government would continue to consider a broader “stand-alone” sanctions law and would present a cabinet document in the coming weeks.
The Labor government has twice rejected ‘autonomous sanctions’ legislation, which would create a comparable ‘Magnitsky’ sanctions regime used by countries including the US, UK and Australia, and faced to growing pressure to adopt it in the days following the invasion of Russia. from Ukraine.
Ardern spoke on Monday morning at the unveiling of a Ukrainian artwork in parliament, a map of New Zealand made from traditional Ukrainian embroidery, in a gesture of “solidarity” with members of the Ukrainian community. during the event.
At the event, Ukrainian-New Zealander Andriy Legenkyy said New Zealand could not “stand on the sidelines”.
“What Ukraine needs now is…quick and severe sanctions against Putin’s government and the oligarchs who support his regime.
“This should include freezing the assets of Russian companies, oligarchs and their families in New Zealand.”
He said “significant humanitarian aid” was needed, as well as safe haven for the hundreds and thousands of women, children and elderly fleeing war.
Ardern maintained that New Zealand’s response to the invasion has been “in line” with partner nations. Last week the government pledged $2 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Australia pledged $105 million, including $70 million for lethal and non-lethal military support. Ardern said New Zealand would not supply military equipment to Ukraine.
A work of art made by the Ukrainian community of Aotearoa was unveiled on the ground floor of the hive by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and a representative of the Ukrainian community. The artwork is hung in a highly visible area to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people, while condemning Russia’s actions.
Earlier today, investor Bill Browder, who has been a driving force behind ‘Magnitsky’ laws elsewhere, spoke at an online event hosted by Labor MP Louisa Wall and National MP Simon O’Connor, co-chairs of the New Zealand wing of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.
“If New Zealand do rush something for Russia and Ukraine this week, hopefully that doesn’t take the pressure off New Zealand to play their part more widely because we have those problems that don’t go away.
“The problem you have is that if New Zealand doesn’t have this law, and all the other rule of law countries have it, then New Zealand becomes a haven and a magnet for everyone. ‘dirty money.”