New Zealand calls on Russia to ease tension with Ukraine, reduce 'risk of a severe miscalculation'

New Zealand is "deeply concerned" about the ongoing tension between Russia and Ukraine amid fears of a possible invasion. 

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said New Zealand strongly supports Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and called on Russia to ease the tensions. 

"We call on Russia to act in a manner consistent with international law and to take immediate steps to reduce tensions and the risk of a severe miscalculation," Mahuta said. 

Mahuta said the government is following the situation in Eastern Europe closely. 

"Aotearoa New Zealand is in contact with our international partners on the situation, and strongly supports international efforts to resolve the crisis diplomatically," she said.

"We hope the ongoing discussions between the US, Russia and other partners will bring about an urgent de-escalation of the situation, and stand ready to support this."

Mahuta said she's concerned about the continuing and unprecedented build-up of Russian military forces on its border with Ukraine.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) issued a warning on Wednesday that said the situation was "highly volatile" and that Kiwis in Ukraine should consider leaving.

"New Zealanders whose presence in Ukraine is not essential, should consider leaving by commercial means if it is safe to do so," the Ministry said. 

"New Zealand's ability to provide consular assistance to New Zealanders in Ukraine is very limited.

"There have been reports of increased Russian military activity near Ukraine's border with Russia and in Crimea. 

"Security conditions at the border may change at short notice. New Zealanders in these areas are advised to regularly monitor local and international media."

The ministry does not have an embassy in Ukraine but New Zealand does have an honorary consul in the country.

Russia has amassed 100,000 troops near Ukraine but continues to deny planning military action against the country they share a border with. 

The Russian Embassy of New Zealand told Newshub on Wednesday that Russian troops are following international law and have no plans to invade Ukraine.

"In light of the ongoing speculations around the situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border the Embassy would like to remind that the Russian troops are carrying out maneuvers strictly in the national territory in full compliance with international rules, and, as was repeatedly confirmed, have no intention to invade anyone," the Russian Embassy of New Zealand said. 

"The case thus remains totally within the framework of Russian internal affairs. The Embassy therefore calls upon all responsible governments to act in a manner consistent with international law, i.e. not to interfere with internal affairs of sovereign states"

In reaction to this, the US put about 8,500 troops on alert to be ready to deploy to Europe if needed. 

"What's happening now is getting them ready on a shorter tether," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

"Today, we're not talking about deployment orders. We have no deployment orders to speak to."

US President Joe Biden warned there would be "enormous consequences" for Russia if they invaded Ukraine. 

"Not only in terms of economic consequences and political consequences, but there would be enormous consequences worldwide," Biden said. 

"If he [Vladimir Putin] were to move in with all those forces, it would be the largest invasion since World War II. It would change the world."