NZ was somewhat slow in imposing sanctions on Russia – but we’ve been tightening the screws bit by bit during the year

We don’t know what impact is being made, but by Point of Order’s rough reckoning, the Ardern Government this week fired off the 13th barrage of sanctions and trade bans on Russia and Belarus in response to Vladimir Putin’s attempts to illegally annex parts of Ukraine.

The latest measures comprise

  • Sanctions which target 51 oligarchs including New Zealand-linked Alexander Abramov and 24 Russian-backed office holders in annexed areas of Ukraine
  • New bans on exports and imports of luxury goods like NZ wine and seafood and Russian vodka and caviar, as well as strategically important products like oil, gas and related production equipment
  • An extension of the 35% tariff on Russian imports till March 2025

New Zealand has now imposed sanctions on more than 1,000 individuals and entities and has imposed unprecedented trade measures which have resulted in New Zealand exports to Russia and Russian imports to New Zealand falling drastically, the Government says.

Russia triggered our responses on February 24 when Putin’s forces launched a full invasion of Ukraine, the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War II.

RNZ next day reported that sanctions announced overnight by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta included a ban on export of goods to the Russian military and security services.

Acting Foreign Minister David Parker told Morning Report that despite being a small country, New Zealand could do its part to ensure Western liberal democracies were unequivocal in their condemnation of the invasion.

Parker said New Zealand would be withdrawing from foreign affairs bilateral consultations with Russia and would impose travel bans on government officials.

But as Geoffrey Miller wrote for Newsroom on March 4:

“The strong language and condemnation may suggest that New Zealand’s position is indistinguishable from that of other western countries.

“However, New Zealand now finds itself standing virtually alone among western countries in having applied few meaningful economic sanctions against Russia.

“This week, even Japan and Singapore fell into line with EU, UK and US-led moves to make Russians pay a heavy economic price for Putin’s brutal war. Both countries had been traditional hold-outs on sanctions.

But instead of immediately reintroducing a ready-to-go autonomous sanctions bill from National that Labour had previously blocked, this week Ardern said the Government was working on a bespoke Russian sanctions bill.”

On March 7, Ardern and Mahuta announced “first of its kind” legislation designed to enable further sanctions on those responsible for or associated with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including people, services, companies, and assets.

The Russia Sanctions Bill (it was passed under urgency) allowed the Government to –

  • Target those economically or strategically important to Russia, including oligarchs
  • Extend sanctions to those supporting Russian invasion, like Belarus

The Government was enabled to

    • Freeze assets in NZ
    • Prevent people and companies from moving their money and assets to NZ to escape sanctions imposed by other countries
    • Stop super yachts, ships and aircraft from entering NZ waters or airspace

A travel ban list of more than 100 individuals was published on the same day.

The PM explained:

“When we first responded to Russia’s invasion by issuing targeted travel bans, prohibiting exports to the military and suspending bilateral foreign ministry consultations we said no options were off the table.

“Today we take the next step in our response to increase sanctions, in line with the actions of our partners.

“This Bill is specific to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and will allow new sanctions to be applied as approved by the Foreign Minister.”

Since then, these statements from the Beehive record how the screws have been tightened bit by bit.

18 MARCH 2022

First tranche of sanctions under the Russia Sanctions Act enacted

4 APRIL 2022

New round of sanctions announced targeting Russian oligarchs

6 APRIL 2022

New Zealand to apply trade sanctions in response to Russian atrocities

19 APRIL 2022

Russian banks targeted under latest round of sanctions

2 MAY 2022  

More political elites and defence entities sanctioned, and prohibitions extended

10 MAY 2022

New sanctions target disinformation and malicious cyber actors

16 MAY 2022

Belarusian leaders and defence entities targeted under latest round of sanctions

7 JUNE 2022

Russian state companies sanctioned

4 JULY 2022

Imports of Russian gold banned

1 AUGUST 2022

Sanctions on Russian armed forces and weapons manufacturers

22 AUGUST 2022

Sanctions on Russian officials in occupied regions of Ukraine


Sanctions on more of the Russian political elite

11 OCTOBER 2022

New Zealand condemns Russia’s annexation attempts

2 thoughts on “NZ was somewhat slow in imposing sanctions on Russia – but we’ve been tightening the screws bit by bit during the year

  1. More empty gestures from an inept and woefully out of depth minister, supported by an equally inept PM. All we get is ridicule from the Kremlin, while the Russian troops continue to wage war on Ukranian civilians. We should have the intestinal fortitude to join with Australia and provide support with hardware.


  2. @aprentongreengmailcom
    ” All we get is ridicule from the Kremlin,”
    Pray tell, the last time that you heard the Kremlin ridiculing the fictitious insignificant little country called Aotearoa. You are welcome to enlist and go and provide support at your earliest convenience.


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