COLOMBO: President of Sri Lanka Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Wednesday he had a phone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin asking for credit support to import fuel for the island nation which is facing its worst economic crisis in memory.
“Had a very productive teleconference with Russian President Vladimir Putin. While thanking him for all the support his government has provided in overcoming past challenges, I requested an offer of credit support to import fuel to #lka in order to overcome the current economic challenges,” Rajapaksa said in a tweet.
Western countries have largely halted energy imports from Russia under sanctions imposed by its war on Ukraine. Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said earlier that the government would seek other sources first, but that was unsuccessful.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, global oil prices have skyrocketed, prompting a number of countries to seek out Russian crude, which is offered at very favorable prices.
Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has led to a severe fuel shortage, forcing the government to close schools and ask non-essential service employees to work from home to reduce consumption of limited stocks. The government said earlier that no entity is willing to supply oil to Sri Lanka even for cash as its oil company is heavily indebted.
Sri Lanka’s foreign currency crisis led to the suspension of repayment of its foreign debt in April pending the outcome of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund for a bailout. However, Wickremesinghe said Parliament Tuesday that talks with the IMF have been complex and difficult because Sri Lanka is now a bankrupt nation.
Unlike in the past, when Sri Lanka entered negotiations as a developing country, this time it must submit a debt sustainability report to the IMF for approval before a deal can be reached.
Sri Lanka’s external debt stands at $51 billion, of which it must repay $28 billion by the end of 2027. This means a payment of $5 billion on average for the next five years.
For the past few months, Sri Lankans have been forced to queue to buy the limited supplies of fuel, cooking gas and food. The crisis has led to street protests for months and scuffles with police at gas stations.

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