Sydney, Australia, June 23 (EFE).- Australia’s leader on Friday described a Russian diplomat illegally squatting on Canberra land where Moscow had planned to build a new embassy as just “a bloke standing in the cold on a blade of grass.”
Russia had planned to build a second embassy on the site about 100 meters from Parliament House until Australia last week terminated the lease of the land for national security reasons.
The man, whose identity has not been revealed, has been living on the plot for several days and is being watched by the Australian Federal Police, according to The Australian newspaper.
He reportedly cannot be evicted from the Commonwealth land because he has diplomatic immunity,
“A bloke standing in the cold on a blade of grass in Canberra is not a threat to our national security,” Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese joked during a press conference on Friday.
“Russia hasn’t been real good at the law lately,” he added, referencing its invasion of Ukraine.
Last week parliament rushed through the law to cancel the lease of the land, thereby blocking the building of the new Russian embassy on the site.
The land only has a small portable building. Russia’s diplomats are based at its old embassy about 3 kilometers away from parliament.
Moscow appears to be preparing a legal challenge to the decision made by the Australian government, according to public broadcaster ABC.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil on Friday defended her government’s action.
“We are confident of our position. The national security concern we are seeking to manage is the proposal to build the second Russian national embassy a stone’s throw from Parliament House,” she said, according to ABC.
Last week Moscow condemned the “unfriendly” step of Australian lawmakers, calling it “Russophobic hysteria,” and assured that they will take it into account in the future for matters that require “reciprocity.”
Australia has repeatedly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and has applied sanctions against more than 1,000 Russian leaders, businessmen and organizations, while sending humanitarian and military aid to Kyiv, one of the most significant contributions outside of NATO. EFE