Russia mulls legal action after termination of Canberra lease on new Australian embassy site | Australian politics

The Russian government has said it is considering taking legal action against a federal authority after it was evicted from the site of its new embassy in Canberra.

On Wednesday, the National Capital Authority announced it had terminated the Russian Embassy’s lease on a block of land in Yarralumla, an affluent lakeside suburb in Canberra, and ordered it to clear the site within 20 days.

The block was used to build the new Russian government embassy. He bought the site in 2008 and had plans approved in 2011, but the NCA, which oversees planning and development in parts of the capital, said construction had not progressed and unfinished work was hampering “to the general aesthetics, to the importance and dignity of the space reserved for diplomatic missions and foreign representations in the national capital”.

On Thursday, News Corp reported that there were concerns the new Russian embassy could improve its intelligence capabilities. The report, citing unnamed sources, also said the Home Affairs Department had blocked Russian contractors from entering Australia, ostensibly to check on the work of the new embassy, ​​for fear they were associated with intelligence services. Russians.

The NCA, in its reasons for terminating the lease, said the Russian government promised it would complete the new building within three years. The NCA said it has a “use it or lose it” policy on diplomatic blocks, due to their limited availability.

The Russian Embassy said in a statement that it was considering legal action against the “unprecedented and highly unwelcome initiative of the ANC”.

“The construction project has indeed encountered multiple problems and delays over several years,” a spokesperson said. “At all times, these were constructive and frank consultations between the Embassy and the ANC.

“It is truly surprising that the NCA has chosen to terminate the lease now that the construction process at the Yarralumla site has continued uninterrupted for over two years, with results already very visible and prospects rather clear.”

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The Russian Embassy is expected to continue to operate from its current location in Canberra’s southern suburb of Griffith.

NCA chief executive Sally Barnes said “in the absence of a commitment on a completion date, the NCA has decided to terminate the lease”.

“The unfinished work underway detracts from the overall aesthetic, importance and dignity of the area reserved for diplomatic missions and foreign representation in the nation’s capital,” she said.

The embassy has been approached to comment on allegations that its contractors have been barred from entering Australia due to alleged intelligence links.

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Post expires at 10:27am on Saturday August 27th, 2022