Colombo: As Sri Lanka continues to battle its worst financial crisis in seven decades, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has sought urgent credit support to import fuel to the island nation in a telephonic conversation with the Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday (local time).

The two leaders discussed bilateral cooperation between the two countries in several key sectors including energy even as Colombo negotiated a support package with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“Had a very productive telecon with the Russia President, Vladimir Putin. While thanking him for all the support extended by his government to overcome the challenges of the past, I requested an offer of credit support to import fuel to Sri Lanka in defeating the current economic challenges,” Gotabaya tweeted.

Further Gotabaya also requested Putin to restart Russian Airlines Aeroflot operations in Sri Lanka. “We unanimously agreed that strengthening bilateral relations in sectors such as tourism, trade & culture was paramount in reinforcing the friendship our two nations share,” Gotabaya tweeted.

“At the initiative of the Sri Lankan side, President of Russia Vladimir Putin had a telephone conversation with President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa,” said Kremlin in a statement.

Both the presidents discussed current matters of bilateral trade and economic cooperation, in particular, in energy, agriculture, and transport.

In the context of the 65th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries marked this year, “the mutual disposition to further progressive development of traditionally friendly Russian-Sri Lankan ties was confirmed.”

As per the release, the presidents agreed to continue contact at various levels.

While addressing a news conference on June 28, Sri Lankan MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage said that the Russian Ambassador to Sri Lanka had initiated the discussion to facilitate the telephonic conversation between President Rajapaksa and Russian President Vladimir Putin to reach an agreement for the procurement of fuel.

The MP said the government had formulated a comprehensive mechanism to ensure continuous fuel supply after July 10.

Amid the unprecedented fuel crisis, the Sri Lankan Education Ministry declared a holiday week for all the government and state-approved private schools. Earlier also, on June 18, the Sri Lankan government announced to shut down all the schools for a week.

Sri Lanka has been facing the worst economic crisis since independence in 1948, leading to an acute shortage of essential items like food, medicine, cooking gas, and fuel across the island nation.

Severe protests have sparked political unrest leading to the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa from the Prime Minister’s post and the appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the country’s Prime Minister in May.

The country, with an acute foreign currency crisis that resulted in foreign debt default, had announced in April that it is suspending nearly USD 7 billion foreign debt repayment due for this year out of about USD 25 billion due through 2026. Sri Lanka’s total foreign debt stands at USD 51 billion.

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