McCully calls for caution over Ukraine

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 07:53 03/03/2014

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As tensions between Russia and Ukraine escalate, the New Zealand Government and opposition MPs are calling for both sides to enter peaceful negotiations.

The plea follows the Kremlin's vote to give Russian 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.

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".

"The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine must be respected and maintained. The United Nations Security Council met to discuss this issue. It remains a matter of active consideration and the New Zealand Government is watching closely.

"The UNSC is the appropriate body to take the lead and we expect the council to live up to its responsibilities."

But Russia, which is a permanent member of the security council, has the power of veto, making any proposed action against Russia unlikely to be carried out.

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.

"That is in nobody's interests. At the end of the day, we are encouraging the UN and other others for cool heads to prevail. This would be a disaster if there was a major problem in the Ukraine," he told Breakfast.

Labour leader David Cunliffe said the situation appeared to be going "from bad to worse, with the Russian Army moving into Crimea and Putin getting parliamentary authorisation to use force if necessary to, in his words ‘stabilise' the socio political situation in the Ukraine".

Cunliffe said New Zealand was in a rare position.

"We have an exemplary record on human rights and peacekeeping, so although we're very small, we can speak with some moral authority, and I hope the Government will offer whatever assistance in whatever small way we can, either through the UN or any other way we can assist the peace building efforts," he said.

"For a whole lot of reasons it would seem a negotiated outcome is the best way forward. There would be very high risks of escalation if there was a combat situation to develop between Nato and Russia and the Ukraine."

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Russian counterpart yesterday that Moscow's military intervention risked creating further instability and an escalation "that would threaten European and international security," the Pentagon said.

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US President Barack Obama has spoken to Putin, telling the Russian leader he had already broken international laws.

Putin has justified the invasion by citing a threat to Russian citizens and servicemen of the Russian Black Sea fleet based there.

- Stuff

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