New Zealand slaps Russian goods with 35 pct import tax over 'atrocities' in Ukraine

New Zealand is slapping Russian goods with a 35 percent import tax over alleged war "atrocities" committed in Ukraine. 

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O'Connor announced on Wednesday that the 35 percent tariffs will apply to all imports from Russia.

Mahuta said the new sanctions were a response to alleged war crimes committed by Russia in the Ukrainian town of Bucha just outside the capital Kyiv, where a mass grave was discovered a month after the area was taken over by Russian troops. 

"The images and reports emerging of atrocities committed against civilians in Bucha and other regions of Ukraine are abhorrent and reprehensible, and New Zealand continues to respond to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's mindless acts of aggression," Mahuta said. 

O'Connor added: "Under the Russia Sanctions Act, New Zealand will apply tariffs across the board to all Russian imports, as well as ban the export of industrial products such as ICT equipment and engines."

He said the trade sanctions, in addition to the other measures taken already, "work in tandem" with Ukraine and international partners to put the most pressure possible on Putin's regime to cease hostilities.

"Officials remain in regular contact with businesses to ensure the impacts of international and domestic sanctions are understood."

Alongside 41 other countries, New Zealand has announced its support for the International Criminal Court's investigation into war crimes committed by Russia, and has provided funding to the investigation.

"Our response to the war in Ukraine is the most significant response to an international crisis we've undertaken as a nation in recent history - including rolling out targeted legislation," Mahuta said. 

"We continue to work at pace and expect to roll out further measures under the Russia Sanctions Act to support Ukraine and stop those associated with Russia's forced aggression."

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta. Photo credit: Getty

The Russia Sanctions Act gives the Government power to freeze the assets of Putin and 12 members of his Security Council, as well as prohibit their vessels and aircraft. The law also bans certain people and companies from moving their money and assets to New Zealand to escape sanctions imposed by other countries. 

National's foreign spokesperson Gerry Brownlee on Tuesday described the sanctions so far as ineffective, because of the 488 individuals sanctioned, only 49 have been subject to asset freezes, while 439 are only subject to travel bans.

"Almost four weeks after Parliament passed the Russia Sanctions Act, the second tranche of sanctions announced by the Government will be disappointing to our Ukrainian community and international partners," Brownlee said. 

"Entities like the biggest Russian banks and financial service providers are noticeably absent. New Zealand has sanctioned only one bank, Promsvyazbank, under the Act and it's not even Russia's largest."

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photo credit: Getty

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she had heard otherwise from Ukraine

"They pointed out that New Zealand's response has been swift, that they count us amongst those countries that have taken action, that have made our views clear and have acted on them and that is, I think, really meaningful when those in Ukraine are reflecting that."

Last week the Government dispatched nine Defence Force analysts to Britain and Belgium to assist with the response to Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24. 

The Defence Force will also help European partners by gathering intelligence about the war during their nighttime hours, "taking advantage of the time zone difference". 

The Government announced a $5 million donation to NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation] for non-lethal military aid to support Ukraine. It would be primarily directed to the NATO Trust Fund which provides fuel, military rations, communications and military first aid kits to support Ukraine. 

The Defence Force also provided 1066 body armour plates to the Ukrainian forces, along with 473 helmets and 571 camouflage vests. 

New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra announced plans last month to pull business from Russia after more than 40 years in the country over the Ukraine invasion.