Canberra, Australia (AP) By Dr Majid Khan – In a move driven by security concerns, Australia has cancelled the lease on the land allocated for the construction of Russia’s new embassy. The decision has sparked accusations of “Russophobic hysteria” from Moscow, further straining diplomatic relations between the two countries. The Australian government justified its action by highlighting the close proximity of the chosen site to Parliament House.
Last month, Russia successfully appealed a decision made by local authorities in Canberra to block the lease. However, in response to mounting security apprehensions, the Australian Parliament swiftly passed emergency legislation to overturn the appeal.
In an attempt to voice their disapproval, the Russian Embassy took to social media, sharing a TASS news report featuring Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov’s condemnation of Australia’s actions. Peskov’s statement cited the cancellation of the lease agreement as evidence of Australia’s involvement in perpetuating Russophobic sentiments.
Acknowledging the repercussions of this decision, Peskov warned that Russia would consider reciprocity if future issues requiring such action were to arise. The Russian Embassy labeled the lease termination as yet another deliberate step by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese towards systematically dismantling relations with Moscow.
The legislation nullifying the lease officially came into effect late Thursday, following approval from Governor-General David Hurley, who represents Australia’s head of state, King Charles III. Albanese justified the urgency of the move, emphasizing the need to prevent the establishment of a formal diplomatic presence at the site.
Members of Parliament cited concerns of espionage and political interference as the primary reasons behind blocking the construction of Russia’s second embassy in the Yarralumla diplomatic precinct, located in close proximity to Parliament House.
Presently, Russia occupies the former USSR embassy in the Griffith suburb, which is further away from Parliament House compared to the designated new site. The Yarralumla site would have provided Russia with a secondary cluster of diplomatic buildings in Canberra, the nation’s capital.
Intelligence agencies in Australia have identified espionage and foreign interference as the country’s most pressing security challenges. Earlier this year, reports emerged of Australia quietly expelling a significant Russian spy ring, comprising individuals posing as diplomats. The Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) disclosed that it had successfully detected and disrupted a major spy network, refraining from explicitly naming the country responsible.
The lease cancellation for Russia’s proposed embassy in Australia underscores the mounting tensions between the two nations, primarily driven by security concerns and allegations of espionage. The long-term impact of this decision on bilateral relations remains uncertain, as both countries reassess their diplomatic strategies moving forward.