Ukraine invasion: New Zealand to 'turn up the dial' in Russia response - Nanaia Mahuta

New Zealand will escalate its response to Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has indicated, with cabinet meeting Monday to discuss further sanctions.  

"We have incrementally and progressively tried to ensure that we're elevating our response as we're witnessing what's happening over in Russia,'' she told Newshub Nation.

"Now that Russia has invaded Ukraine, there is a war happening and another set of responses will be developed."  

Mahuta, fresh from a lengthy diplomatic tour of Europe, spoke to Newshub Nation from managed quarantine as the Russian invasion enters its second week. 

"The next range of measures provide us another opportunity to turn up the dial on Russia and to express our strong concern that what they are doing is wrong. They should be de-escalating and they should get out of Ukraine. War is not the solution."

New Zealand currently has targeted travel bans and sanctions in place, with the Prime Minister foreshadowing additional measures while addressing Parliament on Tuesday.

"We are pursuing new measures to target Russian investment, including measures to target financial institutions in New Zealand, including separate, but Russian targeted, specific legislation," she said. 

However, some MPs are calling on the Government to push further, with opposition leader Christopher Luxon labeling Russian President Vladimir Putin 'completely unhinged' and calling for Russia's Ambassador to New Zealand Georgii Viktorovich Zuev to be expelled.

While the Foreign Minister says she has spoken to and 'expressed concern' to the ambassador, she wouldn't be drawn on when or whether he'll be ejected.

"We've called in the Russian ambassador. In fact, that happened fairly quickly," she said.

"We are certainly considering a range of other measures, in addition to the travel bans, export controls and the diplomatic engagement that we have had as well as expressing our concern to the Russian ambassador."

The Green Party has also called on the Government to step up their response, with co-leader Marama Davidson suggesting New Zealand should leverage our "good relationship" with China to try and rein in Russia.

Her sentiment was echoed by Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Chris Seed when he met with his Chinese counterpart on Wednesday. 

According to an Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) statement, Seed "reiterated New Zealand's condemnation of Russia's unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine and encouraged China to use its access and influence as part of a strong and unified international response."

Asked about the meeting, Mahuta said China and Russia's 'close relationship' could be a helpful diplomatic tool. 

"If friends of Russia can express that this was not a solution, that would be a very helpful thing indeed. But New Zealand, in terms of expressing our concern, trying to find diplomatic pathways, trying to join diplomatic efforts to de-escalate situations, we're really consistent on that front."

With currently no end in sight for the war, fears mount of a refugee crisis and the United Nations estimates up to five million Ukrainians could be displaced by the conflict. 

"It's a huge number," Mahuta said. 

"It's really important for the global community to identify what it can do to provide humanitarian support but also to address the significant challenge of displaced Ukrainians who may ultimately be long term refugees."

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has promised Ukrainians wanting to come to New Zealand and those already here on temporary visas will have their applications fast-tracked but has not announced any increase to the current annual refugee quota of 1500.

Asked whether any further support for refugees will be announced alongside additional sanctions, Mahuta hinted further announcements may be coming but not from her. 

"My colleague, the honorable Kris Faafoi, no doubt will be considering the range of opportunities and tools that he has available to him to make a specific announcement in that area, and I'll leave that up to him."

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