Bankrupt Sri Lanka asks Putin for fuel and tourists

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Farmers take part in an anti-government protest demanding the resignation of Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the country’s current economic crisis in Colombo on July 6, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

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(AFP) – Sri Lanka has asked Russia to provide fuel and resume tourist flights to help the country through its unprecedented economic crisis, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Wednesday.

The island nation has suffered months of blackouts, runaway inflation and critical food and fuel shortages after running out of foreign currency to fund imports.

Rajapaksa said he had spoken with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to ask for an urgent fuel loan and to “humbly” request the resumption of flights between Moscow and Colombo.

“We unanimously agreed that strengthening bilateral relations in areas such as tourism, trade and culture is paramount to strengthening the friendship that our two nations share.”

Aeroflot suspended flights last month after a Sri Lankan court briefly detained an Airbus belonging to the state-owned airline’s fleet over a payment dispute.

Both the United States and the European Union imposed embargoes on Russian oil in response to the country’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Sri Lanka had bought around 90,000 tonnes of Siberian crude in May through a middleman in Dubai, but had run out of dollars to buy more.

Russia and Ukraine were among the main sources of tourists to Sri Lanka before the outbreak of the February conflict.

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic downturn since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.

The government defaulted on its $51 billion foreign debt in April and is in bailout talks with the International Monetary Fund.

European nations, Australia and the United States have asked their citizens to avoid traveling to Sri Lanka due to the worsening crisis.

The country is almost entirely out of petrol and diesel, with non-essential government offices and schools closed in a bid to conserve limited fuel supplies.

© Agence France-Presse

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