Russia has lashed out at Australia after several members of its space agency were unable to get visas for an international satellite conference which begins in Queensland today.
The Russian embassy in Canberra claimed it was an “unfriendly” act by Australia, while organisers of the three-day symposium said they were not sure why some delegates had not secured entry rights.
Hundreds of delegates have arrived at the Gold Coast for a symposium hosted by the International Global Navigation Satellite Systems Society.
But the ABC has learnt several members of Russia’s space agency — Roscosmos — who were invited were not been able to secure visas to attend.
Russian embassy spokesman Alexander Odoevskiy told the AM program his country was disappointed.
“Obviously every country can decide who to let [have] a visa but in the current circumstances, given it’s an international — as I understand United Nations conference — it is not a very friendly step from Australia as a whole country to do so,” he said.
Mr Odoevskiy said he did not know if espionage fears were behind the visa decisions.
“I, frankly speaking, don’t know because we are not intelligence so I wouldn’t comment on this but I understand that [under] international circumstances this is not the idea of a conference, an expert panel conference to be used for spying,” Mr Odoevskiy said.
Senior Government sources have confirmed several members of Russia’s space agency were unable to secure visas, although national security concerns are not believed to be the reason.
The ABC is awaiting a formal response from the Department of Immigration and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has declined to respond to Russia’s criticism.
Conference organiser Rob Henshaw is expecting a productive three days despite the fact some invited delegates have been unable to make it.
“It’s a really great conference — it’s the best program that we’ve ever put together,” Mr Henshaw said.
“It’s on until Thursday and we’re very excited to have such a great representation from right around the world.”