A bloke standing in the cold on a bit of grass in Canberra is not a threat to our national security,” said Australia’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese, on Friday – responding to reports that a suspected Russian diplomat is squatting on the land of a proposed embassy.
Earlier this month, Australia passed a law to prevent Moscow from moving its embassy from a Canberra suburb to a site close to the Australian parliament and China’s embassy. Moscow says it has spent AU$5.5m (£2.9m) on the site since it was granted the lease in 2008 and has accused Australia of “Russophobic hysteria” for cancelling the lease. Completed works include fencing and a single perimeter building that was to be part of a planned complex of several buildings.
The Australian newspaper reported on Thursday that a Russian diplomat was squatting on the land under the watch of police, who were apparently unable to arrest him as he has diplomatic immunity. There was no official response from the Russian embassy in Canberra by Friday afternoon, but Russia’s state RIA news agency quoted the mission as saying that it had taken the matter to Australia’s High Court and various people were involved
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