An employee of Russia’s embassy in Canberra is refusing to leave the site of a planned new embassy in the capital after the Australian government terminated Russia’s lease on the land last week.
The as-yet unnamed man has been filmed smoking cigarettes and taking food deliveries from a site cabin on the spot in the diplomatic precinct of Yarralumla next to Parliament House.
Police were unable to remove the man, described as the “squatting Russian diplomat”, because he holds diplomatic immunity, Australian broadcaster ABC reported.
Australian lawmakers rushed through a law terminating the 99-year lease signed in 2008 last week on 15 June, saying the proximity of the planned embassy to Parliament House posed a national security risk.
Russia had planned to build a second embassy there but so far just one permanent building of the planned complex has been built.
Russian Ambassador Dr Alexey Pavlovsky has launched a High Court challenge to the government’s termination of the lease, ABC reports.
Asked about the squatter today at a press conference, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said he was confident of his government’s position and that processes were underway to “formalise possession of the site”.
He added: “But can I make this point? The national security threat that was represented by a Russian Embassy onsite are not the same as some bloke standing on a blade of grass on the site. That we don’t see really as a threat to our national security.”