Ex Lankan envoy faces probe for arms deals with Ukraine rebels

By
| Sunday, March 22, 2015 - 17:46
First Published |
 Udayanga Weeratunga

A close relative of former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa is facing a probe for his alleged involvement in arms dealings with pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine when he was the country’s envoy in Russia.

The Ukraine government has lodged a complaint to the Foreign Ministry in Colombo providing details of former ambassador Udayanga Weeratunga’s alleged involvement in arms sales to separatist rebels fighting troops in that country, the Sunday Times reported.

“We will conduct a full investigation into this matter,” Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera was quoted as saying by the daily.

Weeratunga, who was recalled soon after President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January elections, was allegedly involved in sale of assault rifles and other small arms to the rebels.

Weeratunga, a nephew of the defeated former long-time president, operated a Sri Lankan food restaurant in the Ukrainian capital Kiev before he was appointed Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Moscow nine years ago.

He served in Moscow for a record nine years until the new government ordered his recall to Colombo together with all political appointees who were heading missions overseas.

However, Weeratunga did not return to Sri Lanka. His whereabouts are not known and he could not be contacted, the daily said.

During his tenure as the ambassador, Weeratunga was involved in a number of military procurements for Sri Lanka.

Some of them, which includes the procurement of MiG-27 ground attack aircraft for the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF), are now being probed by the newly set up Financial Crimes Investigation Division of the Police, the paper reported.

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.

Kiev and the West accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of supporting the insurgency with troops, tanks and heavy weapons — accusations he denies.

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.

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