The new Russian embassy would have been perfectly placed to try to monitor some of the most secret communications in Australia, according to one of the country's most reputable experts on the security services. On Thursday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the federal government would stop the switch to the new site after the Russian embassy won a court case allowing it to do so, citing concerns over its proximity to Parliament House. The position for the embassy's expansion in Canberra is in a direct line of sight between the Telstra Tower and Parliament House, Professor John Blaxland said. "It would enable Russia to expand its activities around Canberra. It would have enabled it to expand its diplomatic and intelligence footprint," the ANU's Professor Blaxland said. He is the joint-author of two volumes of the official history of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. His Revealing Secrets: An unofficial history of Australian signals intelligence &amp; the advent of cyber has just been published. Before academia, he was a Chief Intelligence Staff Officer in the military. He welcomed the government's decision to block the new site after an attempt by the National Capital Authority to deprive Russia of the lease failed in court. Campaigners against the Russian invasion of Ukraine also welcomed the decision. "It's well overdue," Marusya Jacyshin said as she waved a Ukrainian flag outside the existing embassy. "We thank the Albanese government and we thank the opposition for supporting it.." Russia has long had an embassy at 78 Canberra Avenue, opposite the Kingston Hotel. In 2008, the Russian government was given permission to move its embassy to a new greenfield site (Block 26 Section 44) in Yarralumla. READ MORE: There were then long delays. Even today, the plot remains largely undeveloped. Last year, the National Capital Authority ended the lease on the new site. The Russian government went to court and two weeks ago had the lease reinstated. Professor Blaxland says two things have changed since permission was given a decade-and-a-half ago: He said there had been millions of dollars of construction work at the Canberra Avenue embassy. Several floors of underground premises had been constructed, indicating there was no intention to vacate the place. "It's a fortress," Professor Blaxland said. "This is something which is intolerable for Australia." In his view, the scale of activity by Russian operatives in Australia now resembled that under the Soviet Union during the Cold War. On top of the change in Australia's relationship with Russia because of the invasion of Ukraine, a third change is that intelligence-gathering has become much more technical. Technology allows much more intrusion. In February, the head of ASIO said a "hive" of spies had been operating in Australia for years. The organisation's director-general Mike Burgess did not name the country involved but it was widely read as Russia. The group targeted judges, journalists and veterans, Mr Burgess said. Professor Blaxland said there was evidence that Russian operatives wanted to manipulate "Australian fringe groups who are vulnerable to exploitation by conspiratorial lines of reasoning". Building an embassy is often a cat-and-mouse game between the government which wants to build the embassy and the host government which would like to have eyes and ears inside. One of the disputes between the Australian and Russian authorities over the construction (or lack of construction) of the new embassy was how many Russians should be given visas to work on it. Russia wanted more; Australia wanted fewer. When the Chinese embassy in Canberra was built in the late 1980s, it emerged fifteen years after its opening in 1990 that the Australian and United States spy agencies had managed to insert bugs into the building. "The devices were installed by Australia's Security Intelligence Organization in the late 1980s when the embassy was being built in Canberra," the Associated Press news agency said, quoting an ABC report. "The bugs transmitted to a receiver at the rear of the nearby British Embassy and relayed information to the U.S. National Security Agency." The cooperation between ASIO and the NSA had a sour taste to it, though. Some reports said the Americans controlled the information gleaned, and then kept back information which was then used when they negotiated trade deals.