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Thursday May 23rd, 2024

Families complain about 280 Sri Lankans in Russia-Ukraine war, 16 confirmed dead

DRONE WARFARE: Sri Lanka ex-soldiers say many colleagues are dying from Ukrainian drone attacks

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka’s defence ministry has so far received 280 complaints from family members of citizens who have been recruited to fight in the Russia-Ukraine warfront by mercenary companies, State Minister of Defense, Premitha Bandara Tennakoon said.

So far 16 persons have been confirmed dead, he told reporters in Colombo.

Sri Lanka’s Defence Ministry set up a hotline for family to members to lodge complaints after a few returnees exposed the deadly conditions facing mostly ex-soldiers who left to fight mainly for Russia.

No bodies recovered

Sri Lanka authorities have confirmed that 16 persons have died, Minister Tennakoon said.

But there was no information on their remains.

Local media reports quoting returnees and social media messages from Sri Lankans fighting in the Russia-Ukraine front said many more were dead from Ukrainian drone attacks.

On Tuesday a group of family members came to the Russian embassy in Colombo.

Sri Lanka’s Derana Television interviewed a woman who said her husband, who had served in the commando regiment had left for Russia on March 05 and last sent her message on March 29 his phone was taken away, and that completed a training course on March 28.

He had promised to call back in ‘a day or two’ but she had not heard from him since.

Another former commando, had later messaged a friend saying that her husband, Vishnu had died in a drone attack and pass the message to her her.

“Vishnu died on April 18,” the friend said according to the message broadcast on Derana Television. “A whole set, a boy called Silva from Galle who came with me, a Special Forces soldier called Chathura and Priyantha from Matara died.”

“A suicide drone hit their amoured car. Only Ratnayake was left.”

“No bodies are recovered. Their bodies are not brought, our bodies are also not brought.”

How Many

Sri Lanka still does not know how many were recruited, though returnees have estimated that 600 to 800 have left since late last year. What was a trickle in the last quarter of 2023 became a flood in 2024, according to returnees.

One returnee said 15 to 20 visas were issued daily by the Russian embassy in Colombo in the week he got his visa.

He was asked whether it was not possible to track from the immigration data base, who left and did not return to the country within a week or two as tourists would normally be expected to do.

“They use different countries to go to Russia so it’s very tricky,” Tennakoon told reporters.

For example, some are leaving for Russia via Dubai he said.

Attempts are being made to bring back those who are injured and those who want to come back, he said.

Related Hundreds of Sri Lankans hospitalised in Russia-Ukraine war; legislator seeks special envoy

“Russia is a very important friend to us, so is Ukraine,” Tennakoon said. “It’s a diplomatic process and the foreign ministry is handling it.”

Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said that since Sri Lankans are recruited by mercenary companies it was difficult to negotiate with them.

Sri Lanka has already arrested two military officers who are running a recruitment team.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe invited former minister Dayasiry Jayasekera and Gamini Waleboda PM to the recent Security Council meeting. They both provided the information they had with them and that will be used for the investigations going forward.

Returnees said there were several teams recruiting, who were charging various amounts ranging from 350,000 to 1.6 million rupees before their were sent to the war front. (Colombo/May15/2024)

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Sri Lanka has power breakdowns amidst extreme weather

ECONOMYNEXT – The state-owned power utility, the Ceylon Electricity Board has reported over 36,900 breakdowns resulting in power interruptions to more than 300,000 consumers in the last three days due to inclement weather in the island, the power minister said.

“Additional service staff has been assigned to attend the breakdowns and the CEB management & service staff are working 24 hours to restore power to the affected consumers,” Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera said on social media platform X (twitter).

Wijesekera said consumers could report power interruptions through the CEB hotline 1987, via SMS to 1987 with BD and the electricity consumer number to follow, or use the CEB Care app, or through http://cebcare.ceb.lk.

The South-East monsoon has seen floods, landslides and strong winds do damage to the utility provider’s infrastructure in the last week. (Colombo/May23?2024)

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Sri Lanka President calls for unity, sacrificing for a better tomorrow on Vesak day

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka President Ranil Wickremesinghe has recalled a sermon from the Buddha about sacrificing for a better tomorrow, and called for unity to heal and rebuild the country, as Buddhists celebrate Vesak.

Buddhists celebrate Vesak as commemorating the birth, enlightenment and passing away of the Buddha.

“At this challenging moment, we as a nation should cultivate the same great zeal for enlightenment that Buddha exemplified, inspired by his sermon, “Maththasukha parichchaga- passé che vipulan sukhan” – to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow,” President Wickremesinghe said in his Vesak day message.

“We must remember the advice of Lord Buddha, “Sabbattha Sammanaso,” to treat everyone equally and ensure we put it into practice as a country. This is the greatest offering we can present to the Buddha on this Vesak day.

“Regardless of race, religion, caste, or political affiliation, we must all unite to heal and rebuild our country. ”

The full statement is reproduced below:

The Vesak festival is a profoundly sacred day for Buddhists worldwide, commemorating the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and passing. Buddhists in Sri Lanka, along with their brethren around the globe, celebrate Vesak with deep devotion. They spend this period engaging in religious observances and venerating the Buddha with fervent devotion.

At this challenging moment, we as a nation should cultivate the same great zeal for enlightenment that Buddha exemplified, inspired by his sermon, “Maththasukha parichchaga- passé che vipulan sukhan” – to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow.

We must remember the advice of Lord Buddha, “Sabbattha Sammanaso,” to treat everyone equally and ensure we put it into practice as a country. This is the greatest offering we can present to the Buddha on this Vesak day. Regardless of race, religion, caste, or political affiliation, we must all unite to heal and rebuild our country. The principles of Lichchavi Raja Dharmaya will guide us in this endeavour.

Let us keep in mind that the primary aim of the Vesak festival is to foster spiritual growth and character development in a world rapidly advancing physically. I wish everyone a blessed Vesak festival.

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Sri Lanka to host foreign artistes, Sigiriya fashion show to promote tourism

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lanka plans to bring down international artistes, and hold water festivals to boost tourists, Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau Chairman, Chalaka Gajabahu said.

“We will be hosting a few international artists in September to December,” Gajabahu told EconomyNext.

“We would also be having a fashion show in Sigiriya.”

Sri Lanka is targeting 2.3 million tourists in the year 2024 with expectations that it may go up to 2.5 million Gajabahu said.

Sri Lanka is also planning on having a water festival in coastal towns such as Trincomalee, Arugambay  and Kalpitiya in order to showcase Sri Lanka’s capacity for watersports, Gajabahu said. (Colombo/May22/2024)

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