Sri Lanka to probe Russia’s recruitment of nationals for Ukraine conflict

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Sri Lanka is sending a high-level delegation to Russia to investigate the involvement of hundreds of Sri Lankan nationals reportedly recruited to fight in the Ukraine war, announced a top official on Thursday.

Earlier this month, Sri Lankan authorities began investigating these reports, focusing on the trafficking of individuals with military training to fight in Ukraine, according to State Minister for Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya. He emphasized the difficulty in accurately estimating the number of Sri Lankans currently in Russia, citing unofficial figures of approximately 600,800 individuals.

The Sri Lankan Defence Ministry raised alarms over social media campaigns, predominantly on WhatsApp. These campaigns targeted ex-military personnel with enticing offers of lucrative salaries and promises of citizenship. These campaigns, run by Sri Lankan nationals, provide contact details for agents who facilitate documentation and travel arrangements.

This recruitment drive gained traction amid Sri Lanka’s severe financial crisis—the worst in over seven decades—which has significantly increased poverty rates since pre-pandemic levels, prompting mass migration.

The Sri Lankan government has received 288 complaints from family members of nationals who allegedly left illegally to join the conflict in Ukraine. So far, seven individuals, including a retired major general, have been arrested in connection with this human trafficking network, as reported by the Defence Ministry. Tragically, at least 16 retired military personnel have lost their lives in Ukraine.

Sri Lanka’s Defence Secretary Kamal Gunaratne and a former ambassador to Russia will soon depart for Russia with a delegation to address these concerns directly.

Source: Jurist