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Russian squatter leaves axed embassy site after high court loss

Australia’s high court has dismissed Russia’s bid to challenge laws preventing it from building a new embassy on land near the country’s parliament in Canberra.

It comes after Australia earlier this month passed emergency legislation blocking Russia from building a new embassy on the site on security grounds, citing a spying risk.

Dismissing the application on Monday, High Court Justice Jayne Jagot described Russia’s challenge as “weak” and “difficult to understand”.

After the ruling, an unidentified Russian official – described by Russia’s lawyer Elliot Hyde in court as a security guard protecting the compound – left the site.


He had been squatting on the site in a portable building, and was described in media reports as a diplomat.

The man reportedly left the site carrying bags and was collected by a car with diplomatic licence plates.

A portable building on the site. Pic: AP

“The court has made clear that there is no legal basis for a Russian presence to continue on the site at this time, and we expect the Russian Federation to act in accordance with the court’s ruling,” Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese told reporters.

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Russia says it has spent millions on the site since it was granted the lease in 2008.

However, Mr Albanese last week said intelligence services had given “very clear security advice” on the move to terminate Russia’s lease for the land.

The Kremlin had accused Australia of “Russophobic hysteria” for terminating the lease, and launched a last-minute injunction to hold on to the site.

The current Russian Embassy is in the Canberra suburb of Griffith and its operations are unaffected.


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