Ambassador summoned, FTA on hold

Last updated 16:39 03/03/2014

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New Zealand has put a free trade deal with Russia on hold after it deployed troops to Ukraine, Prime Minister John Key says.

Key also scrapped plans to visit Moscow this month. He has ordered Trade Minister Tim Groser, who is in Russia working on the trade pact, to leave tonight.

And Foreign Minister Murray McCully has called in Russian ambassador Valery Tereshchenko to relay the Government's disapproval.

Key said it was not appropriate for Russia to deploy troops in Crimea.

The FTA had been close to being concluded, Key said.

"I don't think this would be the right time for us to be signing an FTA if there was one on the table today," he said.

Western powers are alarmed after Russia sent troops into Ukraine over the weekend. The US and other powers are considering boycotting the G8 meeting, set down for Sochi in June.

It's the biggest clash between the West and Moscow since the end of the Cold War. The Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in the mid-1990s on condition of protection by the US, Britain and Russia.

McCully said New Zealand is "deeply alarmed" and condemned the "breach" of Ukraine's sovereignty. While Russia has interests in the Crimean peninsula, he called on its government to "take steps to reduce tensions".

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