Ukraine invasion: NZ joins global chorus of condemnation but govt checks with others before imposing sanctions

When  Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta told us the Ambassador of the Russian Federation was being called in to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, it was to tell him about New Zealand’s “strong opposition” to actions taken by Russia in recent days and condemn “what looks to be the beginning of a Russian invasion into Ukraine territory”.

The escalation of Russian warmongering since then is reflected in two statements posted on The Beehive website.

The first (posted in the name of the Minister of Foreign Affairs) is headed Aotearoa New Zealand condemns the advance of Russian military into Ukraine.

The second (posted in the names of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern) is headed Aotearoa New Zealand condemns Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Not one of the three statements mentions Vladimir Putin, the Russian President who has gone rogue.

The key points in the second statement posted yesterday are curiously repetitive.

First, three points are highlighted:

  • New Zealand condemns Russian invasion of Ukraine and calls on Russia to cease military operations in Ukraine and immediately withdraw
  • Immediate implementation of a number of measures, including a travel ban on Russian Government officials associated with invasion
  • New Zealand suspends bilateral foreign ministry consultations with Russia, limiting diplomatic engagement

A fourth bullet point expresses condemnation in the names of the PM and her Foreign Affairs Minister (and gives our country the longer name they favour).

  • Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta say Aotearoa New Zealand condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and will join partners in introducing a range of measures in response.

These measures include:

  • “Targeted” travel bans against Russian Government officials and other individuals associated with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in line with a number of our partners;
  • Prohibiting the export of goods to Russian military and security forces; and
  • Suspending bilateral foreign ministry engagement until further notice.

Good luck with that in persuading Putin to end the conflict.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has better prospects of success with measures he announced to ensure schools and kura are prepared for Omicron, with access to masks and rapid antigen tests where needed.

The Ministry of Education (Hipkins said) is ensuring all of its regional offices will have a supply of rapid antigen tests to hand. There are now almost 700,000 tests available for schools and early learning services to access as needed across the network.

Seven million masks are already available and being distributed for the 100,000-strong schooling workforce throughout the country. The Ministry of Education has ordered 36 million more.

The Government also announced measures for businesses struggling with the Omicron outbreak, easing their eligibiliy for the new targeted COVID Support Payment (CSP).

Among other Beehive press statements, Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson has announced the appointment of Herewini Te Koha (Ngāti Porou, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Tamatera), and the reappointment of 11 existing members, to the Waitangi Tribunal.

Herewini joins current members Dr Robyn Anderson, Kim Ngarimu, Professor Rawinia Higgins, Professor Tā William Te Rangiua (Pou) Temara, Professor Linda Smith, Associate Professor Tom Roa, Prudence Tamatekapua, Ron Crosby, Dr Ruakere Hond, Tania Simpson and Dr Monty Soutar who have all been reappointed for a three-year term.

Does the ethnicity of tribunal members reflect Jackson’s idea of a good co-governance model?

But let’s get back to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the government’s response.

In her first statement yesterday, Mahuta expressed the nation’s concerns:

“New Zealand condemns the advance of military personnel and equipment into of Ukraine, which represents a clear violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We stand with the people of Ukraine impacted by this conflict. Our thoughts are with them,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

“Russia’s actions are a flagrant breach of fundamental international rules; the use of force to change borders is strictly prohibited under international law.

“We join the international community in calling on Russia to cease military operations in Ukraine, and immediately and permanently withdraw, to ensure all possible steps are taken to protect civilians in line with international humanitarian law, and return to diplomatic negotiations to de-escalate this conflict.”

But we were disinclined to take retaliatory measures without first finding out what other countries were doing:

“We remain in close contact with partners on the evolving situation, including on appropriate measures being considered by the international community. I will make a further announcement in due course,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

The second statement, in the names of the PM and Mahuta, similar huffed:

“New Zealand strongly condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and joins the international community in calling on Russia to immediately cease military operations in Ukraine,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“This is an unprovoked attack by Russia. By choosing to pursue this entirely avoidable path, an unthinkable number of innocent lives could be lost because of Russia’s decision.

“We call on Russia to do what is right and immediately cease military operations in Ukraine, and permanently withdraw to avoid a catastrophic and pointless loss of innocent life.

“It is through diplomacy, not unnecessary death and destruction, that all parties can find resolution,” Jacinda Ardern said.

Then the statement listed some of the measures to  be taken in response to the invasion – targeted travel bans, a ban on the exports of some goods, and the suspension of bilateral foreign ministry engagement “until further notice”.

Obviously we were doing what other countries were doing:

“In applying these measures, New Zealand joins other members of the international community, in responding to this breach of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Nanaia Mahuta said.

She has asked officials to provide advice on humanitarian response options that are likely to be needed and how New Zealand could potentially contribute in this area.

The interests of businesses are being considered:

“Officials have been engaging with affected businesses about the possible economic and trade impacts a military conflict could have on them. Russia is our 27th largest export market, with dairy accounting for about of half of those exports.”

Acting Foreign Minister David Parker told RNZs Morning Report that despite being a small country, New Zealand stands ready to do its bit to counter Russia’s “unprovoked and illegal” attack on Ukraine.

New Zealand exporters that thought their exports were likely to end up in the hands of the Russian military should be contacting MFAT to find out whether their products were on a strategic list of banned exports, he said.

Parker said New Zealand’s total exports to Russia amounted to $293 million in a recent year, the majority of which was made up of butter and other dairy products.

He said the relatively inconsequential size of the export market to Russia, as a percentage of total exports, highlighted the limit of what New Zealand could do.

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