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Monday, December 4, 2023

Russia suffers legal setback in Australia embassy standoff


Russia’s plans to build a new embassy near Australia’s parliament suffered a legal blow on Monday, with the Supreme Court upholding the government’s efforts to seize the land.

Australia has blocked Russia from building a new embassy in Canberra after intelligence agencies warned the city could be used as a base to spy on lawmakers.

Russia last week issued a last-minute moratorium on keeping the land, while sending a shadowy diplomat to hunker down there while the legal dispute winds down.

But Australia’s High Court ruled on Monday morning that Russia must vacate the site, at least until the case returns to court for more detailed legal arguments.

See also | Australia cancels Moscow embassy lease, Russian diplomats protest

The squatter and diplomat left the scene shortly after the ruling and was taken away by a diplomatic vehicle.

“The court has made it clear that there is currently no legal basis for the Russians to continue to be present at the site,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters.

“We hope that the Russian Federation will act in accordance with the court’s ruling.”

Russia bought the lease on the land from the Australian government in 2008 and was granted permission to build a new embassy there in 2011.

But the Australian government announced last week that it would tear up the agreement.

The Australian parliament passed laws specifically aimed at preventing the Russian embassy from being built on the site, which is about 400 meters (440 yards) from the parliamentary jurisdiction.

“The government has received very clear security advice to prevent the risk posed by a new Russian presence near the parliament building,” Albanese said.

“We are moving quickly to ensure that the leased location does not become an official diplomatic presence.”

Albanese also announced a new military aid package to Ukraine on Monday, including 28 M113 armored personnel carriers and an undisclosed number of 105mm howitzers.

“We support the international community’s efforts to ensure that Putin’s aggression fails and that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are ensured,” Albanese said.

The plan does not include the Hawkei light armored patrol vehicle or more Bushmaster infantry vehicles – both of which are required by Ukraine.


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