Russian Federation made a rapid start, with Aleksandr Golovin having a drive unconvincingly dealt with by New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, before the hosts were twice denied by goal-line clearances.
With an average ball position of over 60% in the first half and numerous attempts on the net of New Zealand, both teams retreated for the break with 1-0 flashing on the scoreboard.
Right back Alexander Samedov provided the assist with a square ball across the face of goal, and Fedor Smolov was in ideal position at the far post to poke it into the back of the net.
Hosts Russia got their Confederations Cup campaign off to the flawless start, easing to victory against a toothless New Zealand in St Petersburg.
The Confederations Cup is set to begin in St Petersburg on Saturday, giving soccer fans around the world a first taste of what to expect when the World Cup takes place in Russian Federation next year. New Zealand's Michael Boxall got a touch on the ball and was credited with an own goal.
Smolov then doubled his country's lead after starting and finishing a free-flowing move in the 69th minute.
Portugal face Mexico at the Kazan Arena while Cameroon and Chile will meet at the Otkritie Arena in Moscow.
"I don't know how it was to play on, but judging by the game it seemed the quality (of the pitch) was rather good".
"The fact the leader of the country came to the match is on the one hand an additional positive, but it is also an additional responsibility", Russian Federation manager Stanislav Cherchesov, whose team face Portugal on Wednesday, told reporters.
Russia's win eases the pressure on winning its second game, against Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in Moscow on Wednesday.
"The game didn't go how we wanted to go", New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson acknowledged.
"It is the first step to the English Premier League now", Cherchesov said in English as he looked across to his also-smiling forward at a news conference.
Russian Federation cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win over New Zealand as the hosts made a confident start to the Confederations Cup.
Russia's opening goal had an ugly finish after two pretty pieces of individual skill once the All-Whites defense needlessly lost the ball.
A Confederations Cup trophy, never mind a World Cup title, might be too much to ask even for Putin, But Saturday was a start.