Russian-Kiwi donates pension to refugees after sanctions freeze it

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A New Zealander who cannot access her Russian pension due to war-related sanctions donates her savings to Ukrainian refugees.

Yevgenia Munro, 67, a former journalist now living in Christchurch, is among more than 400 Russian Kiwis unable to access their Russian pensions.

Russian-Kiwis are entitled to pensions here – but cannot receive a full New Zealand pension if they also receive a retirement pension from Russia.

In these circumstances, the Russian sum is deducted from what they would be entitled to in that country and any difference is supplemented instead.

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Christchurch wife Yevgenia Munro donates her Russian pension to help Ukrainian refugees in Russia, describing the refugees as "double prisoners".

Yevgenia Munro/Supplied

Yevgenia Munro, a Christchurch woman, is donating her Russian pension to help Ukrainian refugees in Russia, describing the refugees as “double prisoners”.

New Zealand’s sanctions on Russia should still allow Russian pensions to be paid through a New Zealand bank, but Munro’s is an insurance scheme she collects from a Russian bank account.

With Russia’s withdrawal from a global payment system (Swift), it can no longer spend credit card money, as it normally would.

Instead, she is donating her pension frozen in her Russian bank account to help Ukrainian refugees.

“I am doing everything to help Ukraine defeat the evil state that Russia has become,” Munro said.

“Russia is a prison right now, and the Ukrainians are doubly imprisoned there.”

Munro said she was worried that the woman who organizes the charity her money goes to in Russia could be prosecuted by Russian authorities.

Yevgenia Munro/Supplied

Munro said she was worried that the woman who organizes the charity her money goes to in Russia could be prosecuted by Russian authorities.

Munro, who is married to a Kiwi and moved to New Zealand 17 years ago, has so far donated 60,000 rubles ($1,750 NZ) since the start of the war, or 83% of his Russian pension.

In June, Munro wrote a letter to the Department of Social Development (MSD) asking them to address the issue and ensure that “Russian-born New Zealanders are not disadvantaged”.

MSD spokeswoman Hayley Hamilton said 426 Russians had lost their pensions and the amount was still being deducted from their New Zealand superannuation.

“We know this is a difficult situation for Ms Munro and other NZ Super customers affected by the sanctions following the Russian government’s attack on Ukraine,” she said.

“Legislation requires us to continue deducting any overseas pension amounts to which they are entitled.”

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Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta speaks on the Russia Sanctions Bill in March.

Hamilton said MSD had not provided any advice to the government on changing the law to address the situation, but was continuing to look for ways to support the Russian-Kiwis.

In May, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued advice to New Zealand banks on how to operate through sanctions.

But Hamilton said MSD was unaware of the resumption of pension payments to the Russians following the guidelines.

Hamilton said 15 affected Russian-Kiwis had requested a formal review.

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