Australia is blocking Russia’s plans to build a new embassy near the Australian Federal Parliament, citing unspecified national security concerns. There has been no response so far from Russia’s diplomatic staff. Australia has imposed broad sanctions on Russia and sent military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion of its neighbor.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Thursday that a new Russian Embassy so close to Parliament House would pose a threat to national security. His government has proposed emergency legislation that would terminate the Russian Federation’s lease on the land. The move doesn’t affect Russia’s existing embassy in suburban Canberra, which is about a 10-minute drive to Australia’s Federal Parliament.
Albanese said that presence would continue “just as Australia has a diplomatic presence in Moscow.”
The Australian leader has not specified what sort of security threat a proposed new Russian Embassy, less than 2 kilometers from Parliament House would pose but he told reporters in Canberra the risk was too great.
“The government has received very clear security advice as to the risk presented by a new Russian presence so close to Parliament House,” he said. “We’re acting quickly to ensure the leased site does not become a formal diplomatic presence. The government condemns Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion of Ukraine. To be clear today’s decision is one taken in the national security interests of Australia.”
Media reports earlier this year said that Australian intelligence agencies had uncovered a so-called hive of Russian spies who were posing as diplomats. At the time, security chiefs said that Australia was facing an “unprecedented” spy threat but did not name the country or countries involved.
Albanese has rejected suggestions that Australia wasn’t doing enough to support Kyiv’s war effort.
Australia is among the largest non-NATO contributors to Ukraine, supplying missiles and armored personnel carriers.
Since the February 2022 invasion began, Canberra has imposed sanctions on hundreds of Russian politicians, including President Vladimir Putin, military commanders and businesspeople. They are the most sweeping penalties Australia has ever put on another country.
Canberra has also banned the import of Russian oil, petroleum, coal and gas.