Russian Ukraine conflict

At least 16 Sri Lankans killed in Russia-Ukraine conflict

At least 16 Sri Lankan military veterans have been killed in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, State Minister of Defence Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon said.

An inquiry initiated by Sri Lanka last week into the recruitment of its citizens for the conflict has revealed the involvement of 288 retired soldiers from the island nation, Tennakoon informed reporters in Colombo.

"We have confirmed information about 16 who have been killed," Tennakoon stated, without specifying the side of the conflict the soldiers were on.

However, ruling party lawmaker Gamini Waleboda informed parliament on Monday that most had been recruited to fight alongside the Russian army. He highlighted that those who joined were misled with promises of high salaries and false assurances of non-combat roles.

Tennakoon described the recruitment of Sri Lankans as a human trafficking operation and urged military officers not to fall victim to such schemes.

The Sri Lankan government is in discussions with the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministries to locate Sri Lankans in both countries and ensure their safe return. Tennakoon acknowledged the sensitivity of the situation, emphasizing the importance of both Russia and Ukraine to Sri Lanka.

Following the defense ministry's probe, complaints from relatives flooded in, prompting Sri Lanka to repeatedly caution its citizens against joining the conflict in Russia or Ukraine.

Tennakoon stressed strict enforcement of laws against human trafficking, warning of severe penalties for offenders, irrespective of their social status.

Furthermore, Tennakoon disclosed that a group of suspects, including a retired senior military officer, has been arrested for suspected involvement in human trafficking. Allegedly, they recruited retired army personnel as soldiers in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, with legal action initiated against them.

These statements were made by State Minister Tennakoon during a media briefing at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) held today under the theme "Collective Path to a Stable Country.