Hundreds of Sri Lankans Fighting For Russia

Hundreds of Sri Lankans Fighting For Russia Against Ukraine, Reports Al Jazeera

by Staff Writer 27-03-2024 | 3:14 PM

COLOMBO (News 1st); Amidst the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, a lesser-known aspect has emerged, shedding light on the involvement of Sri Lankan nationals who have taken up arms on both sides of the conflict.

According to a report produced by Al Jazeera, at least two Sri Lankans have been killed fighting for Russia in Ukraine, and three on the Ukrainian side.

The report said that one Sri Lankan was succumbed to injuries sustained from a Ukrainian attack on a Russian bunker in the Donetsk region.

He was reportedly carried away from the site by a fellow Sri Lankan, who was also injured in the attack.

The report noted that as the two Sri Lankans retreated under fire, another wave of Ukrainian drones struck their bunker in the occupied Donetsk region where the two served with the Russian military.

The surviving Sri Lanka had said he had no option but to leave his fellow countryman behind as the Ukrainian drones rained down death.

The body was later identified by other Sri Lankans fighting with Russian forces – and it was the second recruit from the tropical South Asian island to die in recent months fighting for Russia in the bleak Dontesk battlefield.

The two reported deaths add to the three Sri Lankans who were killed last year while fighting for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion.

Hundreds of Sri Lankans are now serving with the Russian military in Ukraine, most lured into combat by Russia’s offer of salaries up to $3,000 a month and the prospect of Russian citizenship.

Al Jazeera said that many more – mostly retired Sri Lankan soldiers – are also desperately trying to join the Russian army, willing to risk death at the hands of Ukrainian forces in exchange for Moscow’s money amid dire poverty at home in Sri Lanka.

It added that, according to retired and current members of Sri Lanka’s military, despite the deaths of Sri Lankans in Ukraine, many others are willing to take their places on the Russian front lines.

A serving Sri Lankan soldier also told Al Jazeera that he would consider deserting his post if he had an opportunity to join the Russian military.

Sri Lankans have also died fighting for Ukraine’s freedom.

In December Captain Ranish Hewage, who commanded a special unit of fighters, and MM Priyantha and Rodney Jayasinghe – two other Sri Lankan men – were killed fighting against Russian forces.

Hewage was buried on December 15 with several Ukrainian soldiers at Mlynov, 400km (240 miles) east of Kyiv but the bodies of the other two Sri Lankans were never recovered.

About 20 other Sri Lankans who were serving with the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine left the unit after Hewage’s death, according to Lahiru Hathurusinghe, 25, who carried injured Ranish Hewage for several kilometres despite his own injuries.

Hathurusinghe, who deserted from the Sri Lanka army to fight for Ukraine, is believed to be the only Sri Lankan still attached to the Ukrainian side in the war with Russia.