Updated February 28th, 2024 at 14:22 IST

Sri Lanka Ends Visas for Russians, Ukrainians Staying to Avoid War, Asks to Leave Within 2 Weeks

Russian businesses living on extended visas in Sri Lanka pursued the "whites only" policy attracting backlash on social media.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Sri Lanka president Ranil Wickremesinghe. | Image:AP
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Sri Lanka has ended the extended visa scheme for the thousands of Russian and Ukrainian citizens staying within the island nation, asking them to leave the country within two weeks. President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office published an official notice saying that the Russian Ukrainian tourists whose visas have lapsed from February 23 must exit the nation.

A scandal was reported after Russian businesses living on extended visas pursued the "whites only" policy attracting backlash on social media. Such businesses include bars, restaurants, water sports companies and vehicle rental services among others. Sri Lanka has been trying to restore the worst economic crisis since 2022 by booting tourism. It offered the Russian and Ukrainian citizens 30-day visas on arrival and offered extensions of up to six months. Commissioner-General of Immigration of Sri Lanka said the “government is not granting further visa extensions” as the “flight situation has now normalised” and therefore wants those on extended visas to leave.

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Sri Lanka's president orders an ‘investigation’

The Sri Lankan president ordered an investigation to establish how the unilateral decision asking the Russian and Ukrainian nationals to leave the country was made “without a cabinet decision.” The government is also trying to figure out how the provision to extend the stay of the two European countries was revoked.

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Since Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine, an estimated 288,000 Russians and about 20,000 Ukrainians arrived on the island nation on tourist visas. The Ministry of Tourism of Sri Lanka said that the agency received scores of complaints about some Russian citizens indulging in illegal activities.

"They run unregistered businesses in the southern part of Sri Lanka,” local reports quoting the sources said. The office of Sri Lankan President Wickremesinghe said that they have been trying to douse the diplomatic tensions as the notices to leave the country were issued without prior government approval. Some countries, in a contrary approach, have stopped issuing the nationals of Kyiv and Moscow the visas altogether to curb the refugee exodus. The Czech government halted issuing visas to Russian citizens, except in humanitarian cases. 

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Published February 28th, 2024 at 14:14 IST