Crimea protest in Auckland
About 30 Ukrainian immigrants gathered outside Auckland's Britomart station today to protest against the deployment of Russian troops in Crimea.
The upper house of the Russian parliament has voted to give President Vladimir Putin full authority to send Russian troops into Ukraine's autonomous region of Crimea. The newly formed Ukraine Government has placed its troops on high alert.
Ethnic Russian forces have already bloodlessly seized Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula where most of the population are Russian.
In Auckland, the protest group carried signs depicting Putin as Hitler and demanded that Russia take its hands off Ukraine.
Despite the Russian majority in Crimea, the aggressive actions of Russia ignored the diverse population and the indigenous people of the region, the protesters said.
"What about the Crimean Tartars?" said Oliver Vovchenko, 30, a business analyst who has lived in New Zealand since he was 14.
"They want to be part of Ukraine. They have been persecuted all their lives by Russia. A solution needs to include every ethnic group there."
Putin had chosen a strategic time to attempt to seize Crimea, as there was no coherent Ukraine government and the winter Olympics were over, he said.
"You can count on him doing exactly what suits Putin. He is after building a legacy and he does not care about international laws."
The group was concerned any military action could lead to a much larger conflict, even a Third World War.
Tamila Mostipan, a spokeswoman for the Ukraine Association of New Zealand said it was insane to take up weapons and start fighting in the 21st century.
"It will be only blood and death," Mostipan said.
The New Zealand Government earlier today called for both sides to enter peaceful negotiations.
Prime Minister John Key condemned the actions of Russia.
"Putin has taken the very unusual step to get his parliament to give him the authority to take any and all action in the Ukraine, and that includes force obviously," Key said.
"That is in nobody's interests. At the end of the day, we are encouraging the UN and others for cool heads to prevail. This would be a disaster if there was a major problem in the Ukraine," he told Breakfast.
New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has joined world leaders in pleading for caution, labelling the situation "deeply worrying".
He called on parties to exercise restraint and "refrain from any action that could escalate tensions".