SYDNEY, June 23 (Reuters) – Australia Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Friday the contested site of a proposed Russian embassy was secure, after it emerged a Russian diplomat was squatting on the land following an Australian decision to cancel the lease.
This month, Australia passed a law to prevent Russia from moving its embassy from a Canberra suburb to a prime site close to parliament and the Chinese embassy, citing national security concerns.
The Australian newspaper reported on Thursday a Russian diplomat was squatting on the land under the watch of police, who were unable to arrest him as he has diplomatic immunity.
“Australia will stand up for our values and we will stand up for our national security, and a bloke standing in the cold on a bit of grass in Canberra is not a threat to our national security,” Albanese told a press conference on Friday.
“The site is secure and we are comfortable with our position.”
The Russian embassy in Canberra declined to comment to Reuters, but Russia’s RIA news agency quoted the mission as saying that it had taken the matter to Australia’s High Court and various people were involved
The embassy told RIA that staff members were at the site to protect an already constructed building and the supplies stored there, and police had made no attempt to remove them from the location. It did not name any of the squatting staffers.
Russia on Wednesday barred 48 Australians from entering the country in what it said was retaliation for Australia’s long-running sanctions regime against it.
Reporting by Alasdair Pal in Sydney;
Additional reporting by Moscow bureau;
Editing by Stephen Coates, Robert Birsel
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