How New Zealand and Five Eyes responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine

The Five Eyes group of intelligence-sharing countries - Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US and the UK - are sending a strong message to Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. 

New Zealand has imposed travel bans on Russians associated with the invasion, prohibited the export of all goods intended for use by the Russian military and security forces, and suspended bilateral engagement until further notice.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said on Thursday New Zealand stood with Ukraine against Russia in strong condemnation of the invasion of the former Soviet nation. 

"This is an unprovoked and unnecessary 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," Ardern said. 

"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."

Her comments came after Mahuta on Wednesday called in Russia's Ambassador to New Zealand to "hear New Zealand's strong opposition to the actions taken by Russia in recent days, and condemn what looks to be the beginning of a Russian invasion into Ukraine territory". 

It came after Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week recognised two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine - Donetsk and Luhansk - as independent entities. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has also condemned Russia's "brutal and unprovoked" invasion. A day after announcing sanctions on eight members of Russia's National Security Council, Morrison said on Thursday Australia would apply measures on an additional 25 people.

"This includes army commanders, deputy defence ministers and Russian mercenaries who have been responsible for the unprovoked and unacceptable aggression," he said.

"There will be further waves of sanctions as we identify those responsible for these egregious acts, including - as I discussed this afternoon with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - moving on over 300 members of the Russian Parliament."

United States President Joe Biden mentioned Australia and New Zealand as America's allies in his speech on Friday as he condemned Putin's "premeditated attack" on Ukraine. 

"The Russian military has begun a brutal assault on the people of Ukraine. Without provocation, without justification, without necessity, this is a premeditated attack," Biden said in his speech from the White House. 

"Vladimir Putin has been planning this for months, as we've been saying all along. He moved more than 175,000 troops, military equipment into positions along the Ukrainian border. He moved blood supplies into position and built up field hospitals. Which tells you all you need to know about his intentions all along."

Biden said Putin "rejected every good faith effort the United States and our allies and partners made to address our mutual security concerns through dialogue".

Putin authorised "a special military operation" against Ukraine on Thursday to eliminate what he described a serious threat, saying his aim was to demilitarise Russia's southern neighbour.

"I have decided to conduct a special military operation," Putin, seated at a desk in the Kremlin, said in a televised address. 

"Its goal is to protect people who have been subjected to bullying and genocide... for the last eight years. And for this we will strive for the demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine and to bring to court those who committed numerous bloody crimes against civilians, including against citizens of the Russian Federation."

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the military operation in Ukraine in a televised address from the Kremlin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the military operation in Ukraine in a televised address from the Kremlin. Photo credit: Getty Images

Dozens of Ukrainians were killed within hours of Russia's invasion, according to local reporting. The Russian Defence Ministry confirmed that its ground forces had moved into Ukraine from Crimea, which it annexed in 2014. 

Biden described Putin's claims about Ukraine as "baseless". 

"We saw staged political theatre in Moscow, outlandish and baseless claims that Ukraine was about to invade and launch a war against Russia. That Ukraine was prepared to use chemical weapons. That Ukraine committed a genocide. Without any evidence, we saw flagrant violation of international law in attempting to unilaterally create two new so-called republics on sovereign Ukrainian territory. 

"And at the very moment that the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine's sovereignty to stave off invasion, Putin declared his war.

"Within moments, moments, missile strikes began to fall on historic cities across Ukraine. Then came the air raids. Followed by tanks and troops rolling in. We've been transparent with the world, we've shared declassified evidence about Russia's plans and cyberattacks and false pretexts so there could be no confusion or cover up about what Putin was doing."

Biden, mentioning Australia and New Zealand, said he had "for months" been building a coalition of partners.

"Twenty-seven members of the European Union, including France, Germany, Italy as well as the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and many others to amplify the joint impact of our response."

Biden said the US had sanctioned Russian banks that hold around US$1 trillion in assets. It includes VTB, the second largest bank in Russia, which has US$250 billion in assets.

Russia and its state-owned enterprises with assets that exceed US$1.4 trillion will also be prevented from raising money from US or European investors. 

"Some of the most powerful impacts of our actions will come over time as we squeeze Russia's access to finances and technology for strategic sectors of its economy and degrade its industrial capacity for years to come.

"Between our actions and those of our allies and partners we estimate it will cut off more than half of Russia's high tech imports."

Britain has responded by also excluding major Russian banks from the UK financial system, banning Russia's national airline Aeroflot from landing, and imposing a limit on deposits Russians can make in UK bank accounts. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons the new sanctions were "the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen". 

Johnson told British MPs that Putin was a "bloodstained aggressor" who would "stand condemned in the eyes of the world and of history" for invading Ukraine. 

All major Russian banks will have their assets frozen, including Russia's VTB. Russian companies will not be able to raise finance or borrow money on UK markets exports of high-tech items and oil refinery equipment will cease. 

The sanctions would also be applied to Belarus for its role in the assault on Ukraine, Johnson said. Belarus neighbours Ukraine to the north and Russia to the east, and Belarusian tanks have been filmed crossing the border into Ukraine. 

"President Putin of Russia has unleashed war in our European continent. He has attacked a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse," Johnson said in a statement. 

"It is because we have been so alarmed in recent months at the Russian intimidation that the UK became one of the first countries in Europe to send defensive weaponry to help the Ukrainians.

"Other allies have now done the same and we will do what more we can in the days ahead."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also announced sanctions against Russia and ancelled all export permits. Sanctions will target 62 individuals and entities, including members of the Russian elite and their family members, the Russian paramilitary organisation Wagner Group and major Russian banks.

"Russia's actions stand in direct opposition to the democratic principles that generations of Canadians have fought to protect," Trudeau said.  

"Democracies, and democratic leaders everywhere, must come together to defend these principles and stand firmly against authoritarianism."