New Zealand's modest travel sanctions over Russia's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine are largely symbolic, says Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

Mr McCully said he does not expect any retaliation from Russia "at this stage".

He would not name the individuals on the travel-ban list but it is understood that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov are not on it, in keeping with other countries' sanctions.

"We are looking to keep well clear of provoking further anguish," he said.


Mr McCully said he wrote to Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse on Friday to effectively trigger the process of listing the individuals covered.

New Zealand's move should be seen as largely symbolic, he said.

"I don't think we should pretend that there's a queue of Crimean and Russian leaders looking to visit New Zealand," he told the Herald from Singapore yesterday.

"On the other hand, it would not look good if, at a time when others were putting in place sanctions, particularly in Europe, to demonstrate their concerns, New Zealand was to not be in step, but it is largely symbolic." New Zealand's sanctions will take the form of a travel ban against certain individual Russians and Crimean leaders, whereas the European Union and the United States have frozen the assets of individuals.

Mr McCully would not say how many people were on the list but he indicated they were comparable to ones drawn up by Australia, the EU and the US - about 30 people.

He said it would most likely change because it was an evolving situation.

NZ was deliberately following in the footsteps of others "because there is a very delicate process being worked through by the key players, of whom we are not one".

"These travel sanctions are a modest and careful step designed to recognise the significance of the situation but leave room for further diplomatic work to take place."


Because New Zealand does not recognise Crimea, the official statement says the sanctions will apply to specific Russian and Ukrainian individuals, not Crimean separatists, and it refers to the "crisis in Ukraine".

Mr McCully was attending a Commonwealth ministers meeting and putting New Zealand's case for a seat on the United Nations Security Council.