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Legal issues stall release of SL military personnel from Russian Army

July 02, Colombo (LNW): The release of 465 Sri Lankan military personnel who enlisted in the Russian army has encountered legal complications, it was reported.

Russian authorities have indicated that Sri Lanka’s request for their release will be considered later, alongside requests from other foreign nationals serving in Russia, an official said yesterday.

Some of these Sri Lankans have obtained Russian citizenship, as revealed during discussions with Russian officials, a report by Daily Mirror citing comments from Dr. Saman Weerasinghe, former Sri Lankan Ambassador to Russia, who was part of the recent Sri Lankan delegation to Russia, disclosed.

“Under Russian law, dual citizenship is not permitted. Consequently, some of these individuals are now Russian nationals, which restricts our ability to request information about them,” he explained.

Russia has not disclosed the exact number of military personnel who have received Russian citizenship.

Additionally, Dr. Weerasinghe mentioned that others had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) when joining the military, which stipulates that withdrawal is only possible on medical grounds.

“A medical appeal must be reviewed by a panel, adding another layer of difficulty in securing their release,” he added.

Dr. Weerasinghe said Sri Lanka requested the repatriation of these individuals based on the bilateral goodwill between the two nations, noting that they had joined the Russian military due to economic hardships at home.

“With approximately 10,000 foreign nationals fighting in Russia, it is challenging for Russia to grant an exemption solely for Sri Lanka. They will consider Sri Lanka’s request in conjunction with those of other countries in the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, Russia has halted recruitment from Sri Lanka as of May. Russia has also agreed to pay compensation of 13 million Russian rubles (Rs. 45.5 million) for each of the 17 Sri Lankans killed in combat and 3 million rubles (Rs. 10.5 million) for the wounded. Additionally, family members will be allowed to travel to Russia for funerals.

The delegation, led by Foreign Affairs State Minister Tharaka Balasuriya, included MPs Dayasiri Jayasekera and Gamini Waleboda, Defence Ministry Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, Charge d’Affaires of Sri Lanka to Russia Ambassador P. M. Amza, Additional Solicitor General Harippriya Jayasundara, and Director General of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sisira Senavirathne. They held discussions with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Andrey Rudenko, and Deputy Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, Colonel General A. V. Fomin.

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