Imprisoned Lankans were illegal migrants, not students – State Minister of Foreign Affairs

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State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya said the seven Sri Lankans who were imprisoned by the Russian Army in Ukraine for six months are not medical students.

The State Minister said this at a Media briefing held yesterday (19).

He mentioned that according to the latest reports, they have been identified as a group of people who tried to migrate to Europe illegally.

“Also, it has been reported that they do not wish to return to Sri Lanka,” Balasuriya said.

He pointed out that at the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian war, all the Sri Lankans who were in Ukraine and were willing to come to Sri Lanka were brought back.

Balasuriya further said that it is not possible to forcibly bring people who do not want to return.

“According to current reports, these seven people do not want to come. As a Government, we cannot remove them by force. These people are not students, they tried to migrate to Europe through a rogue agent,” he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on 17 September said seven Sri Lankan citizens who had been detained by the Russians since March were rescued in the liberated areas of Kharkiv, Ukraine.

President Zelensky mentioned that they were seven students of the Kupyansk Medical College in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian Media reported, yesterday (19) that the seven Sri Lankans were tortured.

A Ukrainian journalist has released disturbing details about the torture by Russian soldiers in the Kharkiv region.

Journalist Maria Romanenko in a twitter thread said that a group of Sri Lankans who were in Ukraine for work and studies, were kidnapped by the Russians, beaten and had their nails torn off. She added that they were also forced to work for free (clean).

“The six men and one woman, all aged 20-40, arrived in Ukraine around three weeks before the all-out invasion and rented a house in Kupiansk. They were hiding in their house for some time until they decided to try and flee into Kharkiv,” she said.

She said however, they were stopped at the first Russian checkpoint they tried to cross and were blindfolded and taken elsewhere. She noted that the victims tried to walk to Kharkiv again, after the area they were taken to have been liberated by Ukrainian forces, when they found a hotel on their way. They were then taken in by the security guard at the hotel following which the Police were called, she said.

While stating that the victims are now safe, she said Police investigations have been launched into the incident.

BY Tharaka Samman