New Zealand Will Rush Through New Law to Sanction Russia

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- New Zealand's government said Monday it plans to rush through a new law that will allow it to impose economic sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Unlike many countries that have already introduced sanctions, New Zealand's existing laws don't allow it to apply meaningful measures unless they're part of a broader United Nations effort. Because Russia has U.N. Security Council veto power, that has left New Zealand hamstrung.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the new legislation would allow it to target people, companies and assets connected to those in Russia associated with the invasion, including oligarchs. It would allow New Zealand to freeze assets and stop superyachts or planes from arriving.

"A bill of this nature has never been brought before our parliament, but it is essential given Russia's vetoing of sanctions through the U.N.," Ardern said.

The bill will be specific only to the Ukraine invasion but could allow New Zealand to impose sanctions on countries seen to be helping Russia, such as Belarus.

Ardern said there was currently only a small amount of Russian money invested in New Zealand but that without the new law, that could quickly change if Russian oligarchs began viewing New Zealand as a backdoor to avoid sanctions elsewhere.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said the bill "will send a very clear signal that New Zealand will not be a safe haven for those wishing to move their investments here."

The Russia Sanctions Bill is scheduled to be heard by lawmakers on Wednesday and could pass as quickly as the same day. Ardern said she's hoping it will be supported by lawmakers across all parties although an unanimous vote wasn't guaranteed.

"While the legislation is broad, it doesn't mean that someone who is Russian and wealthy will automatically be a target," Mahuta said.

New Zealand has already banned exports to Russia's military and security forces.

It has also banned more than 100 people from traveling to New Zealand in a list that was made public Monday. At the top of the list is Russian President Vladimir Putin.