The New Zealand (NZ) government has rolled out a new wave of sanctions targeting oligarchs with close personal ties to President Vladimir Putin or the Russian government, including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced that the sanctions on a further 36 individuals came into effect on March 5.
“This list includes some of Russia’s richest businesspeople, as well as chairs and chief executives of some of Russia’s biggest companies,” she said in a media release. “They will not be able to travel to Aotearoa New Zealand, move assets here, or use our financial systems to hide from sanctions imposed by other countries.”
Abramovich was disqualified from running the English Premier League team Chelsea after he was sanctioned by UK authorities. However, the billionaire has vowed to sell the club and direct the proceeds toward aiding the Ukrainian people.
Authorities have also been involved in highly publicized seizures of luxury villas, yachts, and private planes.
Emeritus legal professor Gabriel Moens has raised concerns over the lack of transparency from democratic governments in identifying targets for sanction.
“Simply being an acquaintance of Vladimir Putin is neither a satisfactory nor a sufficient reason for depriving them of their property.” he wrote in The Epoch Times. “The reality is that there are oligarchs who oppose the invasion and are prepared to use their resources to help the victims of Putin’s war of aggression.”
The foreign minister said further measures would be enacted in the coming weeks.
“New Zealand is appalled at reports over the weekend showing the targeted killing and abuse of civilians, as Russian troops withdraw from areas of Ukraine,” Mahuta said.
She said through the sanctions, New Zealand would work with the international community to put pressure on people supporting Putin
“[It will also] send a clear message that this illegal invasion cannot continue and that the brutality and inhumane acts from Russian troops cannot be tolerated,” she said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Russia needed to answer to the world for the reported atrocities its troops have done.
She added that New Zealand had joined the international community in referring Russia to the International Criminal Court but stopped short of called Putin a war criminal.
“Ultimately, it is for the International Criminal Court to make that determination but I think the evidence is there. New Zealand is supporting the prosecutors and gathering that evidence and making sure that Russia is held to account,” she told reporters on March 4.
Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador remains in New Zealand with Ardern saying the government was keeping diplomatic options open but would not rule out expelling him in the future.
“When it comes to expelling ambassadors, that also means you lose your diplomatic representation,” she said. “It is an absolute option for us, it just so happens that we prioritised what we consider much more impactful options at this stage.”
Daniel Y. Teng contributed to this article.