The Sri Lankan president has demanded oil from Russian President Vladimir Putin


The Sri Lankan president has demanded oil from Russian President Vladimir Putin

Public protests against the economic crisis continue in Sri Lanka

 The Sri Lankan president has asked Russian President Vladimir Putin for help in exporting fuel.  Sri Lanka has almost no foreign exchange reserves and is facing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from British rule in 1948.

 President Gautama Rajapaksa says he has had very useful talks with President Putin.  Sri Lanka's energy minister had said a few days ago that the country was running out of petrol.

 Hundreds of people protested against the government in the capital, Colombo, on Wednesday.

 President Gautama Rajapaksa said he had asked President Putin to lend him fuel.  Last week, authorities banned the sale of petrol and diesel for non-essential vehicles in an attempt to run out of petrol.

 President Rajapaksa said he had also "humbly requested" the resumption of Russian airline Aeroflot flights between Moscow and Colombo, which had been suspended last month.

 "We also agreed that strengthening bilateral ties in areas such as tourism, trade and culture is essential for enhancing friendship between the two countries."  Lanka has already bought oil from Russia in recent months, and the government has made it clear that it is interested in buying more oil from Russia.

 Efforts by President Rajapaksa to alleviate the country's worst economic crisis have so far failed.  These efforts include seeking financial assistance from India and China.  But the country still faces severe shortages of fuel, food and other essentials.

 Last Sunday, Energy Minister Kanchana Vijay Sekara had warned that there was less than a day's supply of petrol in the country due to the current demand.  Last week, authorities banned the sale of petrol and diesel for non-essential vehicles in an effort to save petrol reserves.  The central bank on Thursday hiked interest rates by one per cent to curb inflation in the country.  Thus, the interest rate on bank loans has been increased to 15.5% while the interest rate on bank deposits has been increased to 14.5% which is the highest in the last 21 years.

 The decision comes at a time when Sri Lanka's annual inflation has risen by 54.6 per cent and food prices have risen by more than 80 per cent.  Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the parliament building on Wednesday, launching what they called a "last push" to oust the Rajapaksa government.

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 Due to this situation, the British government this week instructed its citizens not to travel to Sri Lanka.

 The BBC's South Asia editor, Enbrasin Ethirajan, says Sri Lanka is in dire need of Russian President Vladimir Putin's help with fuel and tourism.  Both of these sectors are critical to reviving the country's economy.  The country has almost run out of fuel, paralyzing business and public transport.

 Sri Lanka is facing severe difficulties in transporting fuel from the Gulf or other countries due to lack of foreign exchange.

 On the other hand, due to the attack on Ukraine, Western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia.  However, President Rajapaksa is clearly ready to incur the wrath of the West.

 A Sri Lankan court last month ordered the temporary seizure of a Russian airliner Aeroflot over a payment dispute, after which Aeroflot suspended its flights to Sri Lanka.  ۔  This added to Sri Lanka's woes as one-fifth of the tourists visiting Sri Lanka were from Russia.

 Now, even if Aeroflot flights are restored, it will not be easy to attract Russian tourists as they will have difficulty shopping during their leisure holidays in Sri Lanka due to the economic situation.

 Many Russian banks have been expelled from the international payment system 'Swift' and Visa and MasterCard have stopped working in Russia.