Expelling Russian Ambassador among 'least meaningful' options - PM

Source: 1News

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says expelling the Russian Ambassador to New Zealand over the war in Ukraine is "one of the least meaningful" options the Government has.

It comes after Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said yesterday that it was "an active consideration", describing Russia's partial mobilisation of reservists as an "increased escalation of tension".

Jacinda Ardern in New York on Friday

"Amongst all of the options for our response, our strong response to Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine, we've always had a range of options on the table," Ardern said outside the UN headquarters in New York this morning.

"Expelling the Russian Ambassador has always been one of those options. We, like most of our like-minded partners, have not exercised that option and that is because actually of all the things we could do, that is one of the least meaningful in this situation."

"As the foreign minister has said, it's always been on the table, always been under active consideration," Ardern said.

"But having met just yesterday with the Prime Minister of Ukraine, I really am firming up the view that in their mind the most important thing we can be doing first and foremost (is) sanctions, and also supporting them as we have in the ongoing fight within Ukraine.

"The question has always been for us, what is the most meaningful thing we can do to bring an end to this war? Ukraine has never asked us to expel the ambassador, and surely for those who are at the front line, it is meaningful for us to respond to what they are pointing to."

Ardern said the Government have always wanted "dialogue and diplomacy to end this war", agreeing with Mahuta's statement yesterday that the Ambassador hasn't been expelled because "we keep the diplomatic channels open in the hope that there is room for diplomacy".

Russian Ambassador Georgii Zuev.

"You lessen your opportunities to do that when you don't have those representatives," Ardern said.

National and ACT have called for the ambassador's expulsion since early in the invasion.

Gerry Brownlee, National's foreign affairs spokesperson, said yesterday: "No New Zealander can watch the news, being confronted by the horror being inflicted on Ukrainians, without supporting the view that Russia must be isolated from the international community."

ACT's deputy leader and foreign affairs spokesperson, Brooke van Velden, said: "Vladimir Putin's threats pose a risk to New Zealanders everywhere and we should not continue any sort of diplomacy with representatives of his administration.

"It is time for actions to back up the Prime Minister's words. The Russian Ambassador must be expelled."

Green Party foreign affairs spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said that "whilst the Green Party supports continued dialogue and diplomacy as a means of achieving peace, we have always said that the Government should consider expelling the Russian Ambassador if he does not engage".

"On this basis, yes, the Government should consider expelling the Russian Ambassador."