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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Embassy Building Opens

More than 20 years after construction first began, the U.S. Embassy has finally moved into its new chancery.

Embassy employees and their families gathered in the chill Friday afternoon to formally open the building, which sat unfinished and deserted for years after it was discovered that Soviet construction workers had filled its walls with electronic bugs.

As a recording of "The Star-Spangled Banner" played, three Marines raised the American flag over the building on Bolshoi Devyatkinsky Pereulok.

"This facility has been a long time in coming," said U.S. Ambassador James Collins, in a speech barely audible above the wind.

"The new Moscow chancery has been one of the most challenging construction projects ever undertaken by the Department of State," he said.

"But today, despite all the challenges, the building we have just occupied is more convenient, more secure, more spacious, more functional and more attractive than its predecessors."

Described as postmodern, the 10-story building has 18,000 square meters of floor space, and includes offices for the State Department, the Defense Department, Justice Department and Immigration and Naturalization Service. The ambassador's office on the seventh floor has windows looking out to the Moscow River and the White House. USAID will likely ultimately make the move as well.

Construction began in the late 1970s but was halted abruptly in 1985 when bugs were discovered throughout the building, hundreds of which were planted into the concrete work.

A U.S. Senate committee once described it as the "most massive, sophisticated and skillfully executed bugging operation in history."

This time around, the embassy took no chances, using mostly U.S.-made materials and employing only American builders. MEBCO, the Moscow Embassy Building Control Office, managed the project, though the name of the contractor was not publicly released.

The U.S. Congress allocated $240 million for it in the early 1990s, though this did not include the millions spent on the initial construction - and the subsequent tearing down of the top floors. The new building incorporates some of the original bottom floors.

The consular section and public affairs office will remain in the old building on the Garden Ring. The consular section will now be in a better position to expand its facilities and improve its services, the embassy said.

The embassy is hoping to have a bigger dedication ceremony for the new building when U.S. President Bill Clinton visits in early June.