*This story was first published on RNZ and is published with permission*
A law enabling New Zealand to freeze the assets of those associated with Russia, in response to its invasion of Ukraine, will pass under urgency this week, the Prime Minister says.
Speaking after a Cabinet meeting this afternoon, Jacinda Ardern confirmed the new Russia Sanctions Bill would be able to target those associated with the invasion, including people, services, companies and assets.
It would prevent people and companies moving their money and assets – including superyachts, ships and aircraft – into New Zealand, and would extend to Russian oligarchs and other countries which support Russia, like Belarus.
Sanctions could apply to trade, financial institutions and territory, and while it would be specific to the Russian invasion it would also allow sanctions to be imposed against states considered complicit in Russia’s acts, Ardern said.
This would be done via a public sanctions register, listing every individual, entity, asset or service being sanctioned.
Ardern said it was the first time a bill of this nature had been before the New Zealand Parliament.
“But with Russia vetoing UN sanctions we must act ourselves to support Ukraine and our partners in opposition to this invasion,” she said.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta said New Zealand had decided autonomous sanctions were required to show the strength of New Zealand’s condemnation of Russia.
The Government welcomed the feedback of all the parties in Parliament in developing the legislation, and cross-party support would allow it to pass under urgency, Mahuta said.
The Government would continue seeking advice on a more general autonomous sanctions regime, she said.
Ardern said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 11 days ago was an unjustified and flagrant breach of international law, condemned by New Zealand along with other countries around the world.
Despite international condemnation, Russia’s assault continued “and so must our pressure”.
Ardern told Morning Report today decisions being considered would include a new law allowing the Government to lodge autonomous sanctions in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
New Zealand has taken some steps to punish the Russian aggression, but usually follows the UN on sanctions – and Russia’s veto power at the UN security council means that’s not an option.
Ardern this morning said the bill being considered would be specific to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, would allow targeting of Russian oligarchs and include possible measures against Russian-linked states like Belarus.
She was quick to note those measures meant it would not too closely resemble one put forward by National’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Gerry Brownlee, and would allow the Government to take its time in considering whether to bring in a more general autonomous sanctions regime.