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President Ranil Wickremesinghe Orders Investigation into Sri Lankans Joining Ukrainian Warfront in Russia

State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya announced that President Ranil Wickremesinghe has directed a team comprising the Defence Secretary, a Foreign Ministry official, and a former Sri Lankan diplomat to travel to Russia. Their mission is to investigate Sri Lankans who have reportedly joined the Russian military in the Ukrainian warfront.

During a press briefing on the morning of May 16, the state minister revealed that an emergency hotline number operated by the Ministry of Defense is active, aimed at gathering information on Sri Lankan nationals who have journeyed to Russia to participate in the conflict.

State Minister of Defence Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon disclosed yesterday that at least 16 Sri Lankan military veterans have lost their lives in the war between Russia and Ukraine. Sri Lanka initiated an inquiry last week into the recruitment of its citizens for the conflict, identifying the involvement of 288 retired soldiers.

Tennakoon did not specify the allegiance of the soldiers in the conflict. However, ruling party lawmaker Gamini Waleboda asserted in parliament that most had been recruited to fight alongside the Russian army, lured by promises of high salaries and non-combat roles.

The recruitment of Sri Lankans is being treated as a human trafficking operation, as stated by Tennakoon, who cautioned military personnel against succumbing to such recruitment tactics.

Efforts are underway to liaise with the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministries to locate and repatriate Sri Lankans safely from both countries, Tennakoon added.

Concerns escalated after the defense ministry initiated its probe last week, prompting relatives to file complaints about individuals traveling to Russia or Ukraine to join the war effort.

Tennakoon emphasized stringent law enforcement against those involved in human trafficking, promising severe penalties regardless of social status. He noted the arrest of suspects, including a retired senior military officer, allegedly engaged in human trafficking for the Russian-Ukraine conflict. Legal action has commenced against them.

The government urges the public to remain vigilant against manipulative recruitment tactics, urging anyone with information on human trafficking to contact the provided hotline.

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