Russian authorities have sued Australia in court over the cancellation of a planned site for the Australian embassy.
The challenge was launched in the Australian Federal Court on 6 October, with Russian lawyers arguing that the local planning authority did not have the power to terminate the Yarralumla site lease.
Attorney Elliot Hyde also claimed he feared that a key Russian diplomat could be deported if the legal battle dragged on.
Federal Judge Steven Rares agreed, according to the AAP.
In mid-August, the National Capital Authority terminated its lease at Yarralumla, home to several other embassies, including US, British, Japanese and French missions.
The Russian government has leased it since 2008 with the intention of replacing the existing embassy on the outskirts of Griffith. A building permit was granted in 2011.
But National Capital Authority CEO Sally Burns said the ongoing “unfinished work” would detract from the area’s “overall aesthetic” and dignity.
“Currently, there are only a limited number of blocks available for diplomatic purposes, so unless a country shows willingness and ability to develop a site, [National Capital Authority] I support a ‘use it or lose it’ policy,” she said in a statement.
Initially, Russia could evacuate the site for 20 days, but Australian authorities agreed to wait until the trial was over.
The matter will be returned to court on November 18th.
Australia considers expelling Russian ambassador
Earlier this week, Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the removal of the Russian ambassador was “under consideration” following President Vladimir Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons.
Russian Ambassador Alexei Pavlovsky said his government would retaliate. He further claimed that the Australians had been “uninformed” of the development of the situation and said they had been “brainwashed”.
Australia followed on behalf of fellow Five Eyes nations and announced additional sanctions against the Russian government for attempting to annex parts of Ukraine.
Mr Wong said the government would roll out “targeted financial sanctions and travel bans” against 28 Russian-appointed separatists, ministers and officials.