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Russia’s President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on economic issues in Moscow on February 17, 2022. (Image: Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on economic issues in Moscow on February 17, 2022. (Image: Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

The BulletinMarch 8, 2022

New sanctions law to target Russia

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on economic issues in Moscow on February 17, 2022. (Image: Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on economic issues in Moscow on February 17, 2022. (Image: Alexey Nikolsky/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images)

The regime in Moscow and Russia’s oligarchs could now see assets frozen and blocked from New Zealand, Justin Giovannetti writes in The Bulletin.

A new law will speed through parliament this week to sanction Russia.

Twelve days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has unveiled legislation to create a bespoke sanctions mechanism aimed at Vladimir Putin and his regime. It’s a historic break for New Zealand and a sign of fracturing in the multilateral system the country has long relied on. Until now, Aotearoa’s diplomats had depended on the United Nations to create sanctions at the global level. As RNZ reports, the new Russia Sanctions Bill will apply to the Russian state, along with any of its allies. With the bill expected to clear parliament under urgency tomorrow, it will extend to Russian oligarchs who have supported the invasion. Under the sanctions, certain Russian-owned superyachts, ships and aircraft will be barred from entering New Zealand.

The sanctions will only grow with time as more Russians are added.

The first tranche of sanctions will be relatively straightforward and could be in place by next week. They will include banking restrictions which will close New Zealand to much Russian money, as well as an extended travel ban list. The ministry of foreign affairs unveiled the first 100 names of Russians banned from New Zealand, with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin at the top of the list. A second tranche will be more complicated and could include the assets of some oligarchs with investments in New Zealand. The prime minister didn’t want to name any by name, certainly not the richest Russian investor in the country, who alone might have $50 million worth of assets here. Stuff wrote about the intense spotlight on billionaire Alexander Abramov last week.

New Zealand’s sanctions follow similar moves by most of our traditional allies.

“Despite international condemnation, and the resilience and resistance of the Ukrainian people, Russia’s assault continues and so must our pressure,” Ardern said at a press conference yesterday. As Stuff reports, a more permanent sanctions law will be coming soon. The prime minister criticised the previous National government for flagging the lack of a local sanctions mechanism in 2012 and only writing a bill to deal with the problem five years later in 2017. To be fair, it was a bill her government then refused to pass over the following five years. Cabinet will now be looking at a possible autonomous sanctions bill in the coming weeks that could be used in similar future occasions. Ardern confirmed that Ukraine has requested military hardware from New Zealand, but said the defence force doesn’t hold enough supply to be helpful. Instead, the government pledged $2 million in humanitarian assistance.

You might be wondering if sanctions will do enough.

By itself, New Zealand’s moves yesterday would have little impact. But it’s part of a massive and coordinated global response over the past two weeks. The combined effect has been enormous. The head of Russia’s central bank worse funereal black when she appeared on TV and is mourning her country’s economy, The Guardian reports. The rouble has lost a quarter of its value in days and the Russian economy is now set to enter a severe recession. As for Putin himself, he may have lost something yesterday. He hasn’t been to New Zealand in two decades (we think), but it’s possible Putin was here more than once as a young KGB officer. As Metro reports, there’s good evidence Putin worked out at a judo academy on Cuba Street and travelled the country during two visits under fake papers. It’s a wild story.

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