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ECONOMYNEXT – Hundreds of former Sri Lankan soldiers recruited by several teams were dying by the hundreds in the battlefields of the Russian-Ukrainian border amid a drone war, according to a fighter who fled the region.

More than 200 former Sri Lankan soldiers are believed to have died and a similar number are being treated in hospitals in areas like Donetsk, he said in an interview broadcast by Sri Lankan television Derana.

The retired soldier said he traveled to Russia after paying 1.6 million euros to a recruitment team of retired senior officers who said they were to be “helpers camp” providing support services.

The kingpin of the recruitment operation appears to be an Indian national named Ramesh, he said. They were also received in Russia by a Tamil speaker, he said.

Sri Lankans who arrived on tourist visas and were then asked to sign a contract in Russian language for the mercenary group “Wagner” (sic) supervised by an Indian lady who appeared to be a lawyer who assured them that it was It was a one-year camp. aid contract.

Growing recruitment operation

He and 33 other Sri Lankans were then taken to a training camp in Rostov where they underwent a 14-day course. There were around 70 Sri Lankans in the training camp at the time he was there.

He learned that around 600 to 700 Sri Lankans are believed to have been taken to Russia in recent months, most of them in the last three months.

About 200 to 300 people are estimated to have died and a similar number are in hospitals in regions like Donetsk, he said.

There were a greater number of mercenaries from countries like Cuba.

The recruitment process has accelerated over the past three months, when only three or four would have been recruited each month last year, he said.

Every day, 10 to 15 tourist visas were issued in Colombo, he said. The passports returned with the visa stamped within a week and were shipped to Russia within the next two days.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry said on Wednesday there was no official count of citizens fighting for Russia or Ukraine, but attempts were being made to help them.

“We don’t know,” Minister Sabry told reporters. “None of them come through formal or official channels.

“So your guess is as good as mine.”

“We are trying to see what we can do if possible. We can deal with the government of any other country. We are asked to deal with a mercenary group that is not a formal government. It is a very difficult task.

Liquidity mining

The soldier said he had to pay 1.6 million rupees to his recruiters while sending a former soldier to almost certain death. He learned from his fellow Sri Lankans that other recruiting teams were charging less.

Some were charged 350,000 rupees, while others were charged 1 million. It is unclear whether other recruiters told former soldiers they should go to the front.

When his group protested that they had been hired as aides-de-camp and refused to take active duty, Russian officials said they had to go to the front because a one-year contract had been signed .

At the mercenary camp, he was told that recruiters received the equivalent of 2.5 million Sri Lankan rupees for each person sent to Russia.

They were then divided into three teams and sent to the front.

His group was spread around four camps where he met Sri Lankan soldiers who also showed him the dog tags of his fallen colleagues. The families back home were apparently not informed of their deaths, he said.

On the front line, Russian soldiers or mercenaries were on drugs, apparently to maintain their fighting spirit, and Sri Lankans were no longer able to refuse to go into battle for fear of being shot down uncontrollably, he said. -he declares.

Drone fodder

That night they were ordered to seize a Ukrainian munitions depot, but refused to go there without knowing the terrain. After his insistence, he was taken to a communications room where the terrain was shown to him using a drone camera.

Asked about possible risks to guard against, he was informed that there were only drones and snipers and not to worry.

As soon as they came out of the bunker, five Ukrainian drones hit them and one Sri Lankan was hit as they were going back inside.

The fallen Sri Lankan was heard screaming and moaning in pain, but no one helped him. He then came out with another Sri Lankan colleague under drone fire and dragged the injured Sri Lankan into the hold. He later learned that the injured man was hospitalized.

They were then pushed out of the bunker and told to take the ammunition dump. They entered the munitions by passing through the open under drone fire, where one person died and a Pakistani was injured.

Killing Fields

They gave him all the first aid they could with the medical kits they had as well as the injections they had to relieve his pain.

After four days, they were asked to return and leave one soldier with the Pakistani fighter. An older Sri Lankan fighter, also slightly injured, chose to stay with him.

After returning to the Russian bunker braving the drones, they were sent back 1.5 kilometers to the front line to rest and told to return for a second operation that night. They were fed and kept under armed guard.

The ex-Sri Lankan soldier and two others then fled into the night on their way to the toilet, distracting the sentry. He later learned that his two friends had been captured.

The Russians used drones to track the escapees and recapture them. However, he kept a low profile and later managed to escape to Moscow with the help of Russians and Ukrainians from the Donetsk region and contact the Sri Lankan embassy.

He said he decided to speak out to prevent others from falling into the same trap. Sri Lankans are also fighting for Ukraine, he said. (Colombo/09 May/2024)

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