The Russian invasion of Ukraine has entered its fourth week, with Russian forces being met with stiff Ukrainian resistance. More than three million refugees have now fled Ukraine.
As well as urgently passing Russian sanctions into law, the New Zealand Government is offering visas to family members of Ukrainian-born New Zealanders.
“New Zealand will continue to call on Russia to immediately cease military operations in Ukraine, and permanently withdraw to avoid further catastrophic loss of innocent life,” Ardern said.
The Prime Ministers discussed the ongoing support needed in Ukraine, including the humanitarian need, which New Zealand has responded to with an initial $6 million in funding.
“We also discussed the historic nature of our Russia sanctions legislation, passed under urgency, allowing us to add 364 political and military individuals to our travel ban list, and placing sanctions on Russian leader Vladimir Putin and members of his Security Council, as well as other entities,” Ardern said.
On Friday, 364 political and military targets were added to travel ban list. At the same time 13 individuals and 19 entities were added to a targeted sanctions list, including prohibition of maritime vessels and aircraft and asset freezes.
Meanwhile in Wellington on Saturday a small group of Russians gathered outside the Russian Embassy
in protest at the invasion of Ukraine.
Natalia Beliaeva, a linguistics teacher in Wellington, was joined by her daughter Julia, 7, and about 10 others on the road opposite the embassy from midday.
“We want to show the officials that Russian people do not support the military action,” Beliaeva said.
The Wellington embassy has been the focus of protest activity against the invasion since it began; an envelope containing white powder brought police to its door, and a street sign was changed to read “Zelenskiy Rd” in honour of the Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Beliaeva still has family in Russia, but with sanctions and travel bans in place, she doesn’t know how long it would be until she sees them again. The invasion came as a shock to the Russian public, she said.
They were told by state-owned media that Russia was acting to protect its citizens, but news from other sources, of bombings and destruction, and the death of Ukrainian people, even children, was devastating, Beliaeva said.
In her role as a teacher of English to migrants and refugees, she heard stories of war and forced migration from her students. Her heart went out to the people of Ukraine.
“There may be just a handful of us here today, but I know for sure people in Russia are terrified by the events,” she said.