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16 Sri Lankan mercenaries killed in Russia-Ukraine war, says defence ministry

They had joined the Russian and Ukrainian forces after unscrupulous foreign employment agencies misled them in the name of foreign employment.

Bandara TennakoonCOLOMBO: At least 16 retired Sri Lankan military personnel have been killed in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, the island nation’s defence ministry said on Wednesday.

The Sri Lankan mercenaries had joined the Russian and Ukrainian forces after unscrupulous foreign employment agencies misled them in the name of foreign employment, according to police.

State Minister for Defence Premitha Bandara Tennakoon said that 16 Sri Lankan retired military personnel were killed in the Russia-Ukraine war.

“That is the confirmed information we have,” he said, adding that plans are being made to bring back Sri Lankans who are currently in Russia and Ukraine.

Former military personnel are engaged to fight on both sides, according to police.

“The figure according to the information received so far was 288,” Tennakoon said.

“The government would take action to bring them back as complaints have been received from their relatives.”

He said that Sri Lanka was working with friendly governments of both Russia and Ukraine to bring its citizens back.

An Indian agent named Ramesh is also said to be working with Sri Lankan agents in the coordination of sending Sri Lankan mercenaries, the police said.

Tennakoon said it was a human trafficking operation where former servicemen go through a third country to reach the war front.

The Criminal Investigation Department (CID) is actively pursuing further investigations into this illicit activity.

Earlier this month, a retired major general and a sergeant were arrested in the northwestern region of Kurunegala for being involved in such trafficking.

Since December last year, there have been reports of several Sri Lankan mercenaries being killed in the Ukrainian war.

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