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Australia cancels lease for new Russian embassy citing national security

SYDNEY – Australia said on Thursday it would introduce legislation to parliament to cancel Russia’s lease to build a new embassy in the national capital of Canberra, citing national security.

The move follows the conclusion of a long-running litigation regarding the leased site after the federal court ruled last month that an eviction order made by the National Capital Authority – a government body tasked with the planning of the national capital – was invalid.

“The government has received very clear security advice as to the risk presented by a new Russian presence so close to parliament house,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters.

“To be clear, today’s decision is one taken in the national security interests of Australia.”

Albanese said his government acted quickly to ensure the leased site did not become an official diplomatic presence.

The termination of the lease would have no impact on Russia’s existing embassy in Canberra.

Russia bought the lease in 2008 and had plans approved in 2011 but the National Capital Authority blamed the embassy for leaving the site unused, according to Australian media.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the “principal problem” with the proposed second Russian embassy was its location, as the site sits directly adjacent to the parliament house.

The bill has the support of the opposition coalition and is expected to pass both houses.

Albanese said his government has anticipated a response from Russia over the decision and “we will await what response occurs.”

“We don’t expect that Russia’s in a position to talk about international law, given their rejection of it so consistently and so brazenly with their invasion of Ukraine,” he said.

Australia is one of the largest non-NATO contributors to the West’s support for Ukraine and has been supplying aid, ammunition and defence equipment and has banned exports of alumina and aluminium ores, including bauxite, to Russia.

Since the conflict began, Australia has provided millions in military support to Ukraine and has sanctioned more than 1,000 Russian individuals and entities. – Reuters

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