Expelling Russian Ambassador to NZ 'an active consideration' - Mahuta

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said expelling the Russian Ambassador to New Zealand is "an active consideration".

It comes after Vladimir Putin announced a plan for partial mobilisation in Russia, and ahead of Russian-controlled regions in eastern and southern Ukraine planning to hold referendums on becoming part of Russia — a move that could allow Moscow to escalate the war.

She denied having any undeclared conflicts of interest, calling the accusations "toxic".

Putin said it was "not a bluff" that Russia would use "all the means at our disposal".

The prospect of expelling the Ambassador has been on the table, however the Government has been resisting due to New Zealand's Ambassador to Russia still being in the country, to "keep the diplomatic channels open".

However, Mahuta today said it was an active consideration, describing Russia's actions as an "increased escalation of tension and it is not helpful on a number of fronts".

"Any threat to use nuclear weapons will harm many people beyond the shores of Ukraine and we can't accept it.

"Right now, as our PM is over at the UN, I am sure there will be a lot of conversations about next steps," she said in relation to Putin's televised address.

The current Ambassador is Georgii Viktorovich Zuev.

Russian Ambassador Georgii Zuev.

Mahuta said she leaves "open the prospect that we may have to consider the status of the Russian Ambassador here in New Zealand".

"It will be an active consideration."

Mahuta said they will reassess their decisions based on the actions in Ukraine.

"We hope for de-escalation."

When asked why New Zealand had not yet kicked out the Russian Ambassador, Mahuta said "we have the New Zealand Ambassador in Russia, we keep the diplomatic channels open in the hope that there is room for diplomacy, because we do not support escalating the situation in Ukraine and the actions of Putin".

She said the recent actions indicates Putin wants to undertake a referendum "that will put the sovereignty of Ukraine at risk".

A 1News Kantar Public Poll in June showed almost half (47%) of those polled supported the expulsion of the Russian Ambassador, 26% opposed and 27% did not know or refused to answer.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said previously that expelling the Russian Ambassador "does sit amongst the suite of options that sits in front of every country”.

"It is on the table as a potential prospect, it is not a decision we have taken at this stage. We do have our own people in Russia, they're able to provide support to New Zealanders who are in-country."

In May, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said there were various considerations around diplomatic representation.

“We also want to continue our diplomatic representation in Russia and obviously there would likely be a tit-for-tat situation there.