Winston Peters belatedly condemns Russia for Salisbury attack

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has issued a statement condemning Russia's involvement in the Salisbury attack, after facing criticism for failing to publicly rebuke Russia.

Last week, Britain charged two Russian nationals with using nerve agent Novichok to poison former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, an attack carried out on British soil.

Britain says the two accused men are Russian GRU military intelligence officers. British Prime Minister Theresa May said last week the attack was almost certainly approved at a senior state level.

Mr Peters initially released a statement on Thursday last week. His statement attracted criticism for failing to condemn Russia, instead simply welcoming "progress the United Kingdom has made in identifying the individuals accused of deploying a nerve agent".

The statement's only mention of Russia was in identifying the two men as "Russian nationals".

After facing questions at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last week's statement from Mr Peters was meant as only a "placeholder". She said she had not issued a stronger statement because she was waiting to be asked by media.

Shortly after, on Monday afternoon, Mr Peters' office issued a statement specifically condemning Russia.

"Any perception the New Zealand Government has not been strong and supportive of the international community are misguided," the statement says.

"The New Zealand Government has consistently supported the United Kingdom and international community in condemning the Salisbury attack and Russia's involvement."

The statement comes after National's Foreign Affairs spokesperson Todd McClay called on the Government to urgently condemn "Russia for its involvement in the Salisbury nerve agent attack, before we are out of step with our closest friends and allies".

"This attack was an appalling, violent breach of the sovereignty of one of New Zealand's closest friends. The Government's written statement on this violent attack falls woefully short and is embarrassing," Mr McClay said.

Ms Ardern said on Monday there have been no specific requests for action from New Zealand.

"Already, we have put on ice any further conversations with Russia in an economic sense. We fulfil the spirit of sanctions that have been applied," Ms Ardern said.