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Russian comments on NZDF : 'No reason for us to react' - Peters

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 3/12/2019 Jane Patterson
Winston Peters wearing a suit and tie © RNZ /Dom Thomas

The foreign minister won't be calling in the Russian ambassador concerning comments made about New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan.

In a media briefing late last month, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said New Zealand must investigate crimes against civilians.

While she said the facts still needed to be verified, she referred to the death of seven children in 2014 as a result of the "New Zealand military's negligence when they failed to properly clear the grounds they no longer used from mines".

"It seems that the lack of regard for the local population has created a favourable environment for these crimes.

"It looked like those same people the international forces were stationed there to help, to restore stability, security and defeat terrorism, were treated as some second-class people whose lives can be sacrificed in the name of selfish political or other interests," Ms Zakharova continued.

Gerry Brownlee wearing a suit and tie © Provided by Radio New Zealand Limited Gerry Brownlee

National MP and former foreign minister Gerry Brownlee asked Winston Peters in Parliament if he would set the record straight with Russia's representative in New Zealand, that the firing range in question was "cleared to the acceptable standard" at the time.

Mr Peters said the Russians were aware of the NZDF's position and New Zealand would not be deviating from that.

"Does his inaction in engaging with the Russian ambassador here in New Zealand in defence of the New Zealand Defence Force indicate a government acceptance of the allegations made by the Russians?" Mr Brownlee asked.

It was a 'no' from Mr Peters - "just because some apparatchik in the Russian foreign service makes a statement is no reason for us to react".

Mr Brownlee made the point Russia had left an estimated 30 million landmines in Afghanistan, which kill or maim about 2000 Afghans every year.

And he tried again.

"Will the minister be calling in the Russian ambassador to express to him the government's dissatisfaction at the allegations laid against the New Zealand Defence Force?"

"I don't have to," Mr Peters said.

"The Russian ambassador's watching this programme as I speak and is hanging on every word."

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