by Shamindra Ferdinando
Sri Lanka is likely to send an investigation team to Kiev early next month to inquire into the alleged involvement of Sri Lanka’s former ambassador to Russia Udayanga Weeratunga in the supply of small arms to pro-Russian Ukranian rebels.
Alleging that Weeratunga had been involved with rebels during the previous UPFA administration, External Affairs Ministry sources told The Island that Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera on Tuesday night (April 21) discussed with the visiting Ukranian ambassador accredited to Sri Lanka Oleksandr Shevchenko the possibility of sending a team to Kiev.
Shevchenko is based in New Delhi.
Government sources said that Lanka lacked the wherewithal to carry out an international manhunt. Sources acknowledged that the government wasn’t aware whether Weeratunga was still in Russia or had sought refuge in some other part of the world. However, Weeratunga wouldn’t dare move into Ukraine, sources said, adding that Ukraine could have requested Western countries to track him down.
Although the US Embassy in Colombo remained tight-lipped, the State Department has accused Russia of sending new weapons to separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The US media quoted Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland as having told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Tuesday (7) that the continued resupply over the border was not compatible with a peace agreement negotiated in Minsk, Belarus. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), too, has accused Russia of arming rebels.
Russia has repeatedly denied Western allegations.
In addition to the alleged supply of weapons to Ukrainian rebels, Weeratunga is also sought by the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) to record a statement as regards his involvement in the procurement of four fully overhauled MiG 27s from Ukraine as well as overhauling of four MiGs already in Sri Lanka’s arsenal at the onset of the eelam war IV.
The police said also that Weeratunga had to be questioned regarding the death of Noel Ranasinghe, an employee of the Sri Lankan embassy in Moscow, also during the UPFA administration. The police recently exhumed Ranasinghe’s body on a magisterial order.
Weeratunga, a nephew of the defeated former president, operated a Sri Lankan 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.
Weeratunga however did not return to Sri Lanka. His whereabouts are not known and he could not be contacted, Foreign Ministry sources said.