ACT News


'Rusty' defence: Russian Embassy defends diplomat in Canberra carpark collision

The Russian Embassy has hit back at claims one of its diplomats was aggressive when trying to settle a carpark bingle in Canberra – and cited the old "rusty car" defence.

But the young public servant Erika Bacon, whose car was driven into by an embassy staffer, maintains she was bullied by a Russian diplomat who wanted her to take responsibility for the crash and wanted to know why she wanted reparation at all when her vehicle was "not a Maserati or a Ferrari".

Despite the embassy promising an apology to Ms Bacon, Russian Ambassador Grigory Logvinov, in a subsequent letter to The Canberra Times, has defended his staffers and accused Ms Bacon of trying to extort the embassy into generally paying to upgrade her "rusty" 15-year-old car – something she vehemently denies.

"All I did was present them for a quote for the damage to the car and asked them to pay it," she said, on Friday.

That quote was for $1397.47 – limited to repairs for damage to the front of her car caused by the crash.

Ms Bacon told Fairfax Media this week that a Russian Embassy staffer drove into her 2001 Hyundai Elantra at the Coles supermarket carpark in Manuka on October 20, when she had the right of way.


The staffer summoned a colleague, Eduard Shakirov, from the nearby Embassy who arrived about five minutes later and told Ms Bacon the cost of the repairs should be shared "50-50".

"I said, 'No, that's not right' and he then started yelling at me, 'Why are you fighting for this? Your car is not a Maserati, not a Ferrari?'," she said on Friday.

"I said, 'It doesn't matter what sort of car I'm driving'."

The Russian Ambassador, in his letter, sent on Thursday, also made an issue of the age and condition of Ms Bacon's car.

"[She] was driving a 15-year-old car in a bad condition (it was rusty, the paint was peeled away in some places – we have all relevant photos)," he said, in his letter.

"She demanded that the Embassy must repair her whole car at its expense.

"Mr Shakirov advised that the payment issue should be settled by insurance companies in full compliance with Australian laws.

"She will get a compensation for the damage to the car after the accident, but not as a result of bad maintenance. Was it 'aggression' or 'threat'?"

The Ambassador, Mr Logvinov, said he wanted an explanation of how his staffer was being aggressive or threatening.

Ms Bacon said she had a witness to the exchange who tried to intervene on her behalf.

"[The witness] said, 'You can't speak to her like that' and [Mr Shakirov] said, 'I'm talking to her. You need to shut up and you need to go over there'," she said.

It was at that point Ms Bacon started to record Mr Shakirov on her mobile phone. She said she was happy to pass on the audio to the Ambassador.

Mr Logvinov seemed perplexed about why the accident had made the media at all.

"The damage to both vehicles was very little. Nobody was injured," he said in the letter.

"Strange as it may seem, this story received a big publicity in local press. Why? The answer is very simple – one of the cars had diplomatic plates, particularly of the Embassy of the Russian Federation."

Mr Logvinov also questioned why drivers with diplomatic status were being painted as putting the safety of the Canberra community at risk.

"I have arrived to Canberra not long ago and every day on TV I see the news I about heavy car accidents. However, I have never seen any reports about diplomatic cars involved in it," he wrote.

"I often visit Sydney and every time come across severely damaged or inverted cars as a result of numerous road accidents, due to severe speeding, but none of them have diplomatic plates. The statistic of traffic accidents in ACT shows that such allegations are groundless. Where do they come from?

"And final question – what actually do you want to say?"