Georgii Zuev, Ambassador of the Russian Federation to New Zealand, arriving at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on February 23.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said talks in parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to summon the Russian ambassador were likely to be fruitless.
Russian Ambassador Georgii Viktorovich Zuev declined to appear before the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Committee and told the committee it would be “useless” for him to answer their questions.
He rejected and then ignored two requests from the committee to meet with them.
He said journalists and the New Zealand Parliament, all of whose MPs and ministers are now on a Russian travel ban list, were undertaking a “public blame campaign for Russians”. He released this written response to the committee, as foreign observers noted that Russian soldiers were carrying out executions of civilians during his invasion of Ukraine.
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* Ukraine ‘grateful’ for New Zealand’s support, although government has yet to impose sanctions
His refusal to appear before the Select Committee led members to wonder whether they should make the extraordinary decision to summon him to Parliament.
In living history, Parliament has attempted to use its convening power only once. President Trevor Mallard said the only instance he was aware of was when a committee summoned a gang member, but he failed to show up despite being summoned.
Mahuta said the committee was unlikely to succeed in summoning Zuev.
“The ambassador is protected by the Vienna Convention and will be very limited in what he can say. I think those safeguards may well render the whole exercise unhelpful,” she said.
The Vienna Convention grants diplomats legal immunity in the countries where they serve.
National’s foreign affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee said it appeared Zuev didn’t want to associate with our politicians given that they’ve all been put on a Russian “blacklist.”
Tension between Zuev and the committee has heightened calls within parliament to expel the ambassador. The government was unwilling to do so as it might prompt Moscow to expel the New Zealand ambassador, closing a diplomatic channel with Russia and leaving New Zealanders in the country without consular support.