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As world slaps sanctions on Russia, Sri Lanka looks to deepen trade with Moscow

As states around the world announced a host of wide-ranging sanctions on Russia, in Sri Lanka a different set of discussions was taking place in Colombo, with deepening trade links on the agenda a ministerial meeting.

Russia’s Alexey Gruzdev, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, reportedly arrived in Sri Lanka and met with the regime’s State Minister for Regional Co-Operation Tharaka Balasuriya in Colombo earlier.

It comes just weeks after Gruzdev visited the Sri Lanka Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The discussions between the two officials also came just days after Sri Lanka’s president Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Russian president Vladimir Putin exchanged letters to celebrate their “abiding friendship and vibrant relations”.

Days later, Russia launched military operations in Ukraine.

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

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”.

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