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Russia cautions Sri Lanka over terror financing, drug smuggling in guise of Covid aid

Russia cautions Sri Lanka over terror financing, drug smuggling in guise of Covid aid

The Russian Ambassador to Sri Lanka has warned the island nation to be wary of terror financing coming in the guise of Covid-19 aid. Ambassador Yury B. Materiy told Sri Lankan Public Security Minister Rear Admiral (retd) Sarath Weerasekara about extremist groups pumping money under the pretext of providing aid.

Sri Lankan newspaper <em>Daily News</em> reported on Monday that the Russian ambassador called on the minister to discuss cooperation over combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

<a href="http://www.dailynews.lk/2020/12/28/local/237244/be-wary-terror-funds-under-covid-aid-guiserussia" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Daily News</em> quoted Materiy</a> as saying: "Many extremist groups have been moving funds for terror activities and have additionally carried out such operations via the trade and trafficking of narcotics under the cover of humanitarian assistance for Muslim organisations and charities.” The ambassador offered support from "relevant authorities in Russia" to marginalise such groups.

Weerasekara reportedly assured the ambassador about increased security in Sri Lanka after the Easter Sunday bombings. This includes strengthening intelligence as well as completing all criminal investigations into the deadly attacks. The minister reportedly said that Sri Lanka has remanded 267 suspects after the eight blasts.

Russia also plans to provide Sri Lanka with the Sputnik vaccine as the ministries of health of the two nations have completed formalities for its distribution. The two also discussed mutual cooperation between the countries related to trade which has gone up substantially despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Another Sri Lankan newspaper, <a href="http://www.dailymirror.lk/top_story/Russian-Envoy-alerts-Minister-Weerasekara-on-terrorist-financing/155-202586" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Daily Mirror</em>, reported</a> that the Sri Lankan minister told the ambassador during the meeting that Sri Lanka had deported nearly 160 'madrasa scholars' for spreading terrorism.

The Russian ambassador also invited the minister to participate in international security forums being held in Russia in 2021.

The Russian ambassador's warning to Sri Lanka is a reminder of an earlier warning, but by Afghan Ambassador to Colombo, M. Ashraf Haidari, that Taliban-produced drugs are entering Sri Lanka through Pakistan. This year Sri Lanka saw record seizures of narcotics, most of which, if not all, came from Pakistan.

The Afghan ambassador had raised eyebrows after an interview to the <em>Daily Mirror</em> in October 2020, when he said: "… we have welcomed the appointment of Ambassador-Designate Piyal De Silva, who, as a former Navy Commander, possesses relevant counter-narcotics experience, and we look forward to working with him to develop the necessary security and law enforcement institutional ties to stem the flow of Taliban-produced drugs to Sri Lanka through Pakistan.”

Over the last few years, Sri Lanka also has taken steps to address deficiencies related to money laundering and terror financing according to recommendations set by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force. The Oversight Committee on Extremism (OCE), formed by the Sri Lankan government in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday blasts had recommended in February 2020 that madrasas in Sri Lanka should be limited to training clerics and should enroll only 16-year-olds with 11 years of formal education..