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Sri Lanka reaches out to sanction-hit Russia for help

Vladimir Putin, Russian President and his Sri Lankan counterpart Gotabaya Rajapaksa (Pic credit IANS)

Sri Lanka has reached out to Russia for assistance notwithstanding the stringent sanctions thrashed out by the US and EU against the latter. Colombo is keen to resume flight services with Russia with the hope of boosting tourist inflow.

The Russian state-owned carrier Aeroflot suspended operations last month after its flight carrying 191 passengers and 13 crew members was not allowed to take off from Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport on account of a payment dispute.

Sri Lanka, which is amid the worst economic crisis since its independence, has also asked Russia to provide fuel to tide over the situation albeit temporarily.

Sri Lanka received maximum tourists from Russia and India until February.

“We unanimously agreed that strengthening bilateral relations in sectors such as tourism, trade and culture was paramount in reinforcing the friendship our two nations share," Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa tweeted.

Also read: India rushing more petrol, diesel to Sri Lanka as friendly neighbour runs out of fuel

The bankrupt island nation, hit by an acute shortage of food and fuel, has defaulted on a foreign debt of $51 billion in April. The country has been forced to shut down schools and public offices.

Though it has now initiated talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a rescue package, concretisation of the deal may take a while.

Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, who took charge in May, warned that it will take more than a year for things to start improving. He said that the economy has “completely collapsed.”

“The year 2023 is going to be difficult, but by 2024 things should pick up,” Wickremesinghe told Al Jazeera in a recent interview. However, he said that he is confident of being able to steer the country out of this economic mess.

Sri Lanka’s economy contracted 1.6 per cent in the March quarter.