Prime Minister's statement on Russian invasion of Ukraine

Good afternoon. As you’ll be aware, yesterday afternoon New Zealand time Russia began a military offensive and an illegal invasion of Ukraine. The UK’s Ministry of Defence communicated this morning that more than 80 strikes have been carried out against Ukrainian targets and that Russian ground forces are advancing across the border on at least three axes, from north and north-east, and south from Crimea. There are reports of attacks in a range of locations around Ukraine, including heavy shelling in eastern Ukraine and fighting in some areas, including around airports and other targets of strategic importance. New Zealand joins our international partners in the condemnation of this attack and have immediately taken a range of measures against the Russian Government.

By choosing to pursue this entirely avoidable path, an unthinkable number of innocent lives could be lost because of Russia’s decision. New Zealand calls 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. The invasion poses a significant threat to peace and security in the region and will trigger a humanitarian and refugee crisis, with reports already of large numbers of people in Kiev making their way towards the Western border. In the lead-up to the invasion, Russia has demonstrated a disregard for diplomacy and efforts to avoid conflict, and must now face the consequences of their decision to invade. As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, Russia has displayed a flagrant disregard for international law and abdicated their responsibility to uphold global peace and security. They now must face the consequences of those decisions.

New Zealand has immediately implemented a number of measures in response to Russia’s actions, these are: the introduction of targeted travel bans against Russian Government officials and other individuals associated with the invasion of Ukraine—this is in line with a number of our partners. These measures will ban targeted individuals from obtaining visas to enter or transit New Zealand. We will update and revise the list of those subject to restrictions based on future developments. Secondly, the prohibition of export of goods to Russian military and security forces. This covers the export of all goods intended for use by the Russian military and security forces, including any armed force, paramilitary force, police force, or militia. This includes weapons and dual-use technology that have a civilian use but are intended for military use, or that may have military applications. While exports from New Zealand under this category are limited, a blanket ban is a significant step as it removes the ability for exporters to apply for a permit, and sends a clear signal of support to Ukraine. And thirdly, the suspension of bilateral foreign Ministry consultations until further notice.

We continue to engage with international partners over additional measures, but it is clear that there will a significant cost imposed on Russia for their actions. Officials will also provide the Government advice on humanitarian response options, and how New Zealand could potentially contribute in this area also.

Finally, our thoughts today are with the people in Ukraine impacted by this conflict. Decades of peace and security in the region have been undermined. The institutions built to avoid conflict have been threatened, and we stand resolute in our support for those who now bear the brunt of Russia’s decision. We repeat our call for Russia to act consistently with its international obligations, to cease military operations in Ukraine, and return to diplomatic negotiations to resolve this conflict.