Parliament unanimously backed a motion from Foreign Minister Murray McCully expressing "deep concern" at the Russian Federation's "violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity".

He said it was in breach of its international obligations and called for steps to de-escalate tensions including the withdrawal of Russian troops back to base, and the "promotion of dialogue among the affected parties".

As a small country, New Zealand depended "on good institutions and rules to promote constructive international conduct", Mr McCully said. "What has happened in the Crimea in recent days challenges basic concepts of acceptable international behaviour."

While Labour supported the motion and foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said the withdrawal of Trade Minister Tim Groser from Moscow was appropriate, he questioned why he had travelled to Russia to continue free trade negotiations at all in recent days.


"Tim Groser's presence in Moscow at this time appears out of step with statements and actions of other countries. This is no time for business as usual."

Mr McCully said the Government was waiting to see how the Ukraine situation developed over the next few days before considering recalling New Zealand's ambassador to Moscow. Asked about the possibility, he said: "Let's just wait and see how things emerge over the next few days".

Mr McCully said further trade or sporting sanctions against Russia would be "getting ahead of the game at the moment".

"What we most need at the moment is a period of de-escalating the tensions rather than ramping them up by inventing new things to do to each other and I'm rather hoping we might see a period of quiet later on today ... and hopefully something coming of the discussions that the German Chancellor and others have had with President [Vladimir] Putin to try and establish a point of dialogue."