Ukrainians in New Zealand urging stronger action from Government in response to Russia

An earlier version of this story used a picture of Vladimir Putin's aide Alexander Abramov not the steel magnate Alexander Abramov.

As the fighting escalates, Ukrainians in New Zealand can only watch in horror and are calling on the Government for stronger action.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hasn't ruled it out and is looking at more ways to sanction Russia, including whether more assets can be frozen.

Anastasiya Gutorova, a lawyer from Ukraine based in Auckland, watches as her homeland is terrorised and torn apart.

She has family still there.

"They're okay, they're as good as they can be right now," Gutorova says.

She's raising money for medical supplies and has a petition calling on New Zealand to do more than its current sanctions.

"A lot of those will affect ordinary people and those ordinary people can't really stand up to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. People who can stand up to Putin and make this stop is the oligarchs," she says.

Oligarchs like steel magnate Alexander Abramov, who owns the stunning Northland beachside lodge Helena Bay.

The Overseas Investment Office told Newshub this property is the only investment from a Russian investor in the last five years.

Ardern is looking at whether Russian assets can be frozen.

"We haven't taken any options off the table at this point."

Squeezing these powerful elites may test their patience with Putin's war, putting pressure on them to stop it.

But we're limited in what we can do, so there are calls for the Government to urgently pass legislation allowing us to enforce sanctions without the United Nations.

"It's something I think we should be pursuing with urgency," says Alexander Gillespie, University of Waikato law professor.

"Russia, with its veto, will make sure no sanctions come against it through the United Nations so we need to be able to work in other directions."

Ardern says that changing the law on autonomous sanctions might not be as timely as some of the options New Zealand has.

As well as urgently passing an autonomous sanctions bill, Gillespie says New Zealand should also enhance our relationship with NATO, have more military assistance - not lethal hardware like Australia has - but equipment like helmets and vests, and give our military more cash to strengthen our position at home.

"The scale of our armed forces means that the kind of equipment that is immediately being offered to Ukraine is just not something that we currently have," Ardern says.

Our only option is humanitarian aid - we donated $2 million to the Red Cross on Monday.

The National Party wants to go further and expel the ambassador - that's still on the table.

Newshub asked for an interview with the ambassador. He declined because hackers have declared a cyberwar on Russia and have crashed their sites, so he doesn't have up to date information.