Sunday, May 26, 2024

New sanctions hit Russian trade

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has today announced new sanctions and trade bans on Russia and Belarus in response to Russian President, Vladimir Putin’s attempts to legally annex parts of Ukraine.

The sanctions target 51 oligarchs including New Zealand-linked Alexander Abramov and 24 Russian-backed office holders in annexed areas of Ukraine, the Ministry said today.

The latest move by the New Zealand Government will also see new bans imposed on exports and imports of luxury goods like NZ wine and seafood and Russian vodka and caviar, as well as strategically important products like oil, gas and related production equipment.

The news followed Russia’s overnight missile strike attack on civilians in Kyiv.

“Our sanctions apply to a further 24 so-called ‘officials’ in these regions, who are agents of annexation. We reject what they represent, and we will continue to identify and sanction them,” said Foreign Minister, Nanaia Mahuta.

“We have also extended sanctions on all members of the State Duma and Federation Council, Russia’s houses of Parliament which have given their support to Russia’s illegal actions.

“Sanctions have also been applied to a Russian state-owned company that makes passports for occupied areas of Ukraine, and a Russian public relations firm involved in managing the public campaign around the sham referenda,” she said.

“Since the introduction of our trade measures in April, trade between Russia and Aotearoa New Zealand has already significantly reduced, with a 75% drop in imports. Today’s additional measures will further reinforce our message to Russia that we will not fund or support the Russian war machine,” said Trade and Export Growth Minister, Damien O’Connor.

“The trade measures include a significant expansion of the range of exports of strategic importance prohibited to Russia and Belarus, and prohibiting certain luxury goods from being traded with Russia,” he said.

“The 51 oligarchs are members of Russia’s economic elite. They own assets and provide services with economic or strategic relevance to Russia, such as steel, oil, gas, coal, phosphate, tobacco, banking, telecommunication, and transport companies,” said Minister Mahuta.

“Amongst them is Alexander Abramov, who has links to New Zealand. Also being sanctioned is Evraz plc, a steel company that produces more than 25% of all Russian railway wheels and almost all of Russia’s rail lines. Mr Abramov is the founder and former CEO of Evraz, as well as its second largest shareholder.

“I have sought, and taken, extensive advice before deciding to sanction Mr Abramov. I have factored in his connections to the local economy and the impact that applying full sanctions would have on small businesses and livelihoods connected with his business interests.

“If full sanctions were applied, the disruption felt by New Zealanders is likely to be greater than that felt by Mr Abramov himself, who does not live here and only has a small proportion of his wealth invested in New Zealand.

“Taking this into account, I have taken a tailored approach to sanctions. Mr Abramov and his family members will be subject to a travel ban, and their aircraft and vessels will be banned from entering our airspace and ports.”

The Government also announced an extension of the 35% tariff on Russian imports until March 2025.

“The intention of our sanctions is to exert pressure on Russia, not punish innocent New Zealanders. We hope that the considered actions we are taking will encourage Mr Abramov to voice concerns about Russia’s war on Ukraine,” said Minister Mahuta.

“Although I am advised that his representatives in New Zealand insist he has not played a role in the invasion and has not lived in Russia since 2016, as a leading businessman with links to Russia’s political and economic elites I expect he has the influence to speak up and be heard.

“Oligarchs play a crucial role in fuelling Russia’s war by providing economic and strategic support to the Russian Government through their activities. Aotearoa New Zealand stands with the global community in condemning Russia’s illegal war. We also condemn the overnight attacks on Ukrainian civilians and call for Putin to be held to account.”

To date, Aotearoa New Zealand has imposed sanctions on over 1,000 individuals and entities, and has imposed unprecedented trade measures which have seen New Zealand exports to Russia and Russian imports to New Zealand both fall drastically.

More information about sanctions, travel bans, and export controls against Russia; as well as humanitarian, military, and legal support to Ukraine can be found on the MFAT site here.

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