Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister admitted his cash-strapped government will look to Moscow for oil, as an economic crisis in the country has left the island facing a dire fuel shortage.
In an interview with AP published earlier today Ranil Wickremesinghe did not confirm his own energy minister’s claims that Sri Lanka bought a 90,000-metric-ton shipment of Russian crude to restart its only refinery, but admitted the country was left with few international choices.
“If we can get from any other sources, we will get from there. Otherwise (we) may have to go to Russia again,” he said.
Wickremesinghe’s remarks come as Russia faces a barrage of sanctions and is being shunned by a range of Western countries over its actions in Ukraine, with many refraining from buying Russian oil or looking to wean itself off such purchase entirely.
The Sri Lankan prime minister however went on to claim that “there is a lot of oil going around which can be sourced back informally to Iran or to Russia.”
“Sometimes we may not know what oil we are buying,” he added.
Sri Lanka’s energy minister Kanchana Wijesekera was more forthright last week, telling reporters, “I have made an official request to the Russian ambassador for direct supplies of Russian oil”.
Sri Lanka’s desperation however comes at a time where many countries are having turbulent relations with Russia. Colombo too had a diplomatic furore with Moscow, after a plane with the Russian carrier Aeroflot, was barred from leaving Sri Lanka. Western sanctions on Aeroflot were supposed at the centre of the ruling by the Commercial High Court of Colombo, which led to the incident. Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Moscow, Janitha Abeywickrema Liyanage, was reportedly summoned by the Russian Foreign Ministry and Sri Lanka quickly scrambled to release the flight, which has since returned back to Moscow.
Despite growing calls for Sri Lanka to condemn Russian aggression, Sri Lankan officials have instead sought to deepen ties with the state, including seeking economic assistance and abstaining on votes regarding Ukraine at the United Nations.
Read more on the growing ties between Russia and Sri Lanka below: