Lanka’s Moscow envoy accused of selling arms to Ukraine rebels
Udayanga Weeratunga, Sri Lanka’s former Ambassador to Russia, has been accused by Ukraine of involvement in arms sales to separatist rebels fighting troops in that country. The Government of President Petro Poroshenko has made a complaint to the Foreign Ministry in Colombo in this regard providing details of Mr. Weeratunga’s involvement, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera told the Sunday Times. “We will conduct a full investigation into this matter,” he said. Accusations against Mr. Weeratunga, the Sunday Times learns, deal with the sale of assault rifles and other small arms.
Mr. Weeratunga, who was residing in the Ukranian capital of Kiev and owner of Club Lanka, a restaurant that served Sri Lankan dishes, was appointed Ambassador to the Russian Federation by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mr. Weeratunga is a nephew of Mahinda Rajapaksa. He served in Moscow for a record nine years after then President Rajapaksa came to office until Minister Samaraweera ordered his recall to Colombo together with all political appointees who were heading missions overseas. However, Mr. Weeratunga did not return to Sri Lanka. His whereabouts are not known and he could not be contacted yesterday.
During his tenure as Ambassador, Mr Weeratunga has been involved in a number of military procurements for Sri Lanka. Some of them are now being probed by the newly set up Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) of the Police. They include the procurement of MiG-27 ground attack aircraft for the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF).
The pro-Russian rebels are fighting Ukranian troops largely in the Donetsk province in the eastern region of the country. A shaky ceasefire – the Minsk Accord – has been in place since February 12. The ten month long conflict has left more than 6,000 people dead. The pro-Russian rebels were accused of flouting a ceasefire that was in force during the early days of the truce. Reports say since then the firing of guns has slowed down.
Former President Rajapaksa had close ties with the ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and visited Kiev during Mr. Yanukovych’s presidency.