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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Britain to Begin Building New Embassy in Moscow

Britain will begin building a new embassy this fall to replace its elegant but overcrowded riverfront mansion, embassy officials said Tuesday.


The current embassy complex, located at one of Moscow's most prestigious addresses across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, will remain as the ambassador's residence after minor renovations.


The diplomatic corps and all technical and administrative personnel will relocate to the new building. Embassy spokesman James Paver refused to discuss the location of the new facility, citing security concerns.


Queen Elizabeth II may lay the first stone of the new facility during her visit to Moscow in October, he said. The embassy expects to complete construction by the year 2000.


The Soviet government handed over the current embassy building to the British in 1929, acknowledging Britain as the first major world power to open relations with the Soviet state, in 1921. Britain officially recognized the Soviet Union in 1924.


The building, known as the Kharitonenko Mansion, was erected in 1893 on a patch of former marshland by Moscow sugar merchant Pavel Kharitonenko.


From 1918 to 1919, the mansion housed the Danish Red Cross, the only foreign mission in Moscow at the time, according to "The British Embassy in Moscow," a book by Kathleen Berton.


With the increase in demand for British visas by Russian residents in recent years, the embassy has outgrown its current facilities, embassy officials said.


Embassy building in Moscow can be a risky affair, although in the post-Cold War era, British officials hope to avoid the fate of the Americans, who had to abandon a brand-new embassy building a few years ago after finding it riddled with listening devices planted by Soviet intelligence.