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Sri Lanka ‘won’t take sides’ on Russia and Ukraine, as conflict intensifies

Sri Lanka’s foreign secretary declared his government would not “take sides” on Russia’s military action in Ukraine and instead claimed that “each can have their own reasons”.

Speaking to reporters, Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage said that Sri Lanka is “watching the situation”.

He went on to warn that the economic impact on Sri Lanka would be “severe” and the already crisis-hit island “will have to pay more for our fuel and gas, our tea market will get affected”.

As Colombage made his comments, a group of Ukranian tourists protested outside the Russian Embassy in Colombo.

His remarks come just days after Russian president Vladmir Putin and Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa exchanged letters, with Rajapaksa stating the “abiding friendship and vibrant relations between Sri Lanka and Russia are time-tested”.

Ties between the two countries have been growing in recent years.

Last year, senior Russian security officials visited Sri Lanka, whilst another accused Sri Lankan war criminal, army chief Shavendra Silva, was greeted by a military guard of honour on a visit to Moscow.

In 2020, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited the island and pledged to supply Sri Lanka with “all the weapons they need”.

The exchange of letters from the two leaders comes as Putin faces the threat of increasing sanctions from Western countries over Russia's actions in Ukraine, and as Sri Lanka faces further rebukes at the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council session over its lack of accountability for mass atrocities.

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