Govt. delegation yet to leave for Moscow, absence of Ambassador worrisome

<p><img src="" alt="Featured Image"></p><p><!-- wp:html --><h2><span>Lankan soldiers of fortune 'trapped' on Russia-Ukrainian front:</span></h2>
<span>By Shamindra Ferdinando</span></p>
A high level delegation that included Secretary Defence Gen. (retd.) Kamal Gunaratne is yet to leave for Moscow two weeks after the government announced the move in response to growing reports of ex-Sri Lankan military personnel taking up assignments with the Russian military.</p>
<p>State Foreign Affairs Minister Tharaka Balasuriya on Monday (27) said that they were awaiting the required appointments. The lawmaker said so in response to The Island query.</p>
<p>State Minister Balasuriya told a media briefing at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC), on May 16, that instructions were received from President Ranil Wickremesinghe to dispatch a team comprising the Defence Secretary, a Foreign Ministry official and a former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Moscow to look into the matter.</p>
<p>The State Minister estimated the number of Lankan ex-servicemen there between 600 and 800.</p>
<p>State Defence Minister Pramitha Bandara Tennakoon told the PMC briefing on the previous day, the ex-servicemen taking up mercenary role had been discussed at the National Security Council chaired by President Wickremesinghe.</p>
<p>Sources asserted that the absence of a Lankan Ambassador in Moscow since May Day couldn't have happened at a worse time. Professor Janitha A. Liyanage, who had been on her third extension, left Moscow in the last week of April, sources said, adding that the Ambassador's responsibilities were placed on a relatively junior career diplomat.</p>
<p><em>The Island</em> learns that Ambassador Liyanage had received three extensions beginning Oct last year after Russia declined to accept Sri Lanka's nominee and subsequent move to appoint a career diplomat, too, didn't materialize, as she declared her inability to take up the challenging appointment.</p>
<p>Prof. Liyanage succeeded Prof. M.D. Lamawansa in Oct 2021 after the latter requested to return to Sri Lanka to assume duties as the Vice Chancellor of the University of Peradeniya. Lamawansa had been President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's first choice as Sri Lanka's Ambassador to Moscow. He took up the appointment in January 2020 with a concurrent accreditation to the Republic of Armenia, Republic of Belarus, Republic of Moldova and Republic of Uzbekistan.</p>
<p>Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry, following consultations with relevant authorities, has decided to send a retired senior career foreign service officer to Moscow as Charge d'affairs. Sources said that an experienced officer was needed, especially against the backdrop of ex-servicemen joining the Russian military. Several of those personnel had been killed and scores believed to be wounded in the Russia-Ukraine conflict with families of the ex-military making representations to the Russian Embassy in Colombo as well as the UN in this regard.</p>
<p>Sources asserted that the delegation, led by Secretary Defence, would go ahead with the planned visit in spite of the appointment of a Charge d'affaires in place of a full time Ambassador.</p>
<p>Others said that the ex-servicemen's issue could have been addressed successfully much earlier if the government took tangible measures immediately after the media disclosed the secret route to the Ukrainian front. Russia sent in the Army in February 2022 after repeated Ukrainian provocations.</p><!-- /wp:html --></p><p>[Category: <a href="" rel="category tag">Uncategorized</a>]</p><p><strong>Tags:</strong> </p>

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