Canada's diplomats in Moscow will have to work another three years in an embassy compound that's vulnerable to attacks and the prying eyes of foreign spies, The Canadian Press has learned.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was warned in an internal memo from a senior bureaucrat that Canada's embassy in the Russian capital offers "almost no protection" against an attack.

A leaked copy of the memo details the stalled embassy project, outlining why diplomats won't be moving to a more secure facility until January 2016 instead of last July as planned.

Move approved in 2008

The delay has added nearly $30 million to the cost of the project, since Foreign Affairs received approval in 2008 to move the embassy to a more suitable building.

A quarter of the increased cost — or $7.5 million — is for extra construction to keep unidentified "threats" from spying on Canadian diplomats in the new embassy.

The memo surfaced after the recent high-profile closures of Canada's embassies in Iran and Syria, decisions that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Baird have said were made to keep Canadian diplomats out of harm's way.

Meanwhile, the current Russian embassy remains open even though the "embassy complex does not meet DFAIT security standards in terms of the building envelope."

The Canadian embassy and ambassador's residence have been housed in a series of connected buildings in Moscow that date back to 1898.

'Moscow is an extremely hostile environment'

"The possibility of terrorist incidents in Russia is high and the existing site offers almost no protection against an attack. Moscow is an extremely hostile environment and the current site is highly vulnerable to counter-intelligence threats," says the memo from an associate deputy minister.

"These buildings have deteriorated beyond acceptable workplace standards. Compounded by age, numerous physical and structural deficiencies, and severe overcrowding, the chancery poses ongoing health, safety and security risks to Embassy staff and other user(s) of the facility, and impedes the effective delivery of mission programs."

Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Jessica Seguin said precautions are being taken to ensure that Canada's personnel, interests and visitors are protected at its Russian embassy.

"This property meets Canada's immediate needs while respecting taxpayers' money," she said in prepared media lines delivered over email. "A re-scoping of the proposed project was recently completed and costs are expected to be reduced."

The department will absorb the extra project cost, which will impose an added financial burden because the last federal budget called for $170 million to be shaved from Foreign Affairs' $2.6-billion annual budget.

In February 2008, Treasury Board gave approval to Foreign Affairs to sign a new 20-year lease with the Russian government. Russia's foreign ministry leases embassy space in the country from an inventory of properties under its control.

The decision to move was made following a 2007 audit by the department that found the embassy deficient.

A lease for a new building was signed in March 2008, contingent on Foreign Affairs coming back to Treasury Board with a revised submission on the final cost.

Canada signed the lease because the Russians offered a building "at submarket rates" that would provide a "long-term solution."

But there was a catch.

"The offer was time-sensitive and required the Canadian government to respond by March 1, 2008 or the property would have been offered to another organization," the memo states.

The new building has since sat unused while the project cost jumped from $78.1 million to $107.3 million, in part because of $9.5 million of "increased rent costs while the building remains unoccupied."

Dewar said the government needs to answer publicly for how it negotiated the new embassy with the Russian government.

"Is this the standard for all other countries, or are we just seen as suckers, or the ones who will pay a king's ransom for an empty building?"

The added Russian embassy project costs include $7.5 million to pay for "increased construction costs to mitigate counter intelligence threats."