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Sri Lanka sends two ministers to Russia for fuel amid crisis

COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (AP) – Sri Lanka is sending two government ministers to Russia to negotiate for fuel – one of the necessities nearly exhausted amid the Indian Ocean island nation’s economic collapse.

Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said two ministers left for Russia yesterday to continue in-person talks that Sri Lanka has been having with Russian authorities to directly purchase fuel, among other related issues.

He urged people on Saturday not to line up for fuel, saying only limited stock will be distributed to limited stations throughout next week.

He said until the next shipments arrive, “public transport, power generators and industries will be given a priority”.

Residents have had to queue for hours and sometimes days to get fuel, sometimes resorting to burning charcoal or palm fronds for cooking. Wijesekera’s comments come while a high-level United States delegation is visiting Sri Lanka, seeking ways to help the island nation cope with an unprecedented economic crisis and severe shortages of essential supplies.

Soldiers secure a fuel station as people register themselves to purchase fuel. PHOTO: AP

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, global oil prices have skyrocketed.

While Washington and its allies are trying to cut financial flows supporting Moscow’s war effort, Russia is offering its crude at a steep discount, making it extremely enticing to a number of countries.

Like some other South Asian nations, Sri Lanka has remained neutral on the war in Europe.
However, Wijesekera said the Foreign Ministry and the Sri Lankan ambassador in Russia have been making arrangements for a fuel sale.

“There is an advantage for us if we could buy oil directly from the Russian government or the Russian firms. There are talks going on,” he told reporters on Sunday.

The shortages have led to protests against the government recently to demand fuel, and the government has deployed armed troops in addition to police at every fuel station.

Last month, the country bought a 90,000-metric-tonne shipment of Russian crude to restart its only refinery, Wijesekera said.