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HomeNewsSri Lanka confirms 16 citizens killed in Ukraine conflict

Sri Lanka confirms 16 citizens killed in Ukraine conflict

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At least 16 Sri Lankan mercenaries have died in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as confirmed by Deputy Defence Minister Pramitha Tennakoon on Wednesday (15). The Sri Lankan government is working with both Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministries to locate and repatriate its citizens.

Sri Lanka has identified the participation of 288 retired soldiers in the conflict, with an inquiry revealing the involvement last week. Tennakoon said, “We have confirmed information about 16 who have been killed.” However, he did not specify which side they were fighting for.

Complaints from relatives have surged since the defence ministry launched its investigation to gather information about those who travelled to join the war. Sri Lanka has repeatedly warned its citizens against travelling to Russia or Ukraine to fight, but economic hardships have driven many to seek opportunities abroad.

Most recruits were misled with promises of high salaries and non-combat roles, as stated by ruling party lawmaker Gamini Waleboda. He mentioned that most Sri Lankans had been recruited to fight alongside the Russian army. “Those who joined had been duped with promises of high salaries and falsely told they would be given non-combat roles,” Waleboda said.

Sri Lanka treats this recruitment as a human trafficking issue and urges military officers not to fall victim to these schemes. The government, amidst a significant economic crisis,

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plans to reduce its military size by half, targeting 100,000 soldiers by the end of the decade. This follows the end of a decades-long civil war against Tamil Tigers in 2009.

Police arrested two retired army officers, including a major general, last week for illegally acting as recruiting agents for Russian mercenary firms.

India and Nepal have also reported citizens joining the conflict, with Nepal confirming at least 22 deaths in combat. Soldiers returning to Nepal believe the actual toll is higher. Russia, facing significant casualties, continues to seek global recruits as it battles manpower shortages.

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