COLOMBO (News 1st); February 19 marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Russian Federation and the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.
The Russian Embassy, while emphasizing that bilateral relations between the two countries have always developed in an environment of friendship, mutual understanding and friendliness, said that they are based on equality, good will and respect for the interests of others.
Although diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Ceylon were established in 1957, ties between the two countries existed long before Sri Lanka’s independence;
- The first mention of Ceylon is in the 15th century memoirs of the Russian merchant and traveler Afanasiy Nikitin. In the 18th and 19th centuries, many Russian dignitaries, scientists, geographers, writers and artists visited the island. The most notable among them were the great playwright and novelist Anton Chekhov, the novelist and poet Ivan Bunin and the painter Vasiliy Vereshchagin. The Russian consulate in Sri Lanka was opened in Colombo at the end of the 19th century. In 1891, the Russian Crown Prince, the future Emperor Nikolai II himself, visited Ceylon and planted a tree in the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens.
- In the late 1950s and 1980s, the Soviet Union and Sri Lanka developed close trade, economic, cultural, scientific and technical cooperation. In 1958, the first bilateral agreement between the USSR and Ceylon, “On the development of cultural cooperation”, was concluded. Moscow and Colombo have signed agreements on the opening of air and sea routes. The Soviet Union helped Sri Lanka set up a metallurgical plant in Oruwella, a tire production enterprise in Kelaniya as well as milling and house-building factories.
- Several mutual visits have been undertaken by the delegations of the two countries, which further broadened our ties. In December 1961, Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, came to Ceylon on his world peace tour. In 1963 Ceylon Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike became the first Sri Lankan leader to visit the Soviet Union. She visited the USSR again in 1974. In April 1982, Foreign Minister ACSHameed paid a working visit to the Soviet Union, marking the first-ever trip by a Sri Lankan foreign official to the USSR.
- The Russian Federation, as the legal successor to the USSR, has continued to develop and strengthen its bilateral relations and political dialogue with Sri Lanka.
- In October 2009, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov paid a working visit to Colombo, first by a head of Russian diplomacy, met with then President Mahinda Rajapaksa and held talks with Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama.
- The first working visit of a Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to Russia took place in 2010. Negotiations took place with the then Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev. In 2011, the Sri Lankan leader participated in the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.
- In 2017, Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena was in Moscow for an official visit and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. In June 2019, Vladimir Putin and Maithripala Sirisena had a brief meeting on the sidelines of the 5th Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia.
- In January 2020, Sergei Lavrov paid a second working visit to Colombo and held talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.
- In 2021, Russian-Sri Lankan relations continued to develop as Russia gave its full support to the Sri Lankan government during the 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, did its utmost possible to oppose the anti-Sri Lankan resolution and voted against.
- Additionally, the Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V has been approved in Sri Lanka under the emergency use authorization process and 335,000 doses of the first and second components have been delivered to the island nation.
- In April, the relaunch meeting of the Sri Lanka-Russia Parliamentary Friendship Association was held in the Sri Lankan Parliament.
- In October, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Jayanath Colombage held a new round of Russian-Sri Lankan political consultations in Moscow on bilateral, regional and international issues.
- In November, Russian Federation Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev visited Colombo, met with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and held consultations on security issues with Defense Secretary Kamal Gunaratne.
- In December, the Russian government took the decision to transfer $5.5 million to the World Food Program to fund the development of sustainable school feeding projects in Sri Lanka.
- Russia is an important trading partner of Sri Lanka and one of the main importers of Ceylon tea. Despite the COVID-19 situation, the bilateral trade volume has not decreased significantly and imports from Sri Lanka have increased by more than 10%. The Russian-Sri Lankan Intergovernmental Commission for Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation effectively contributes to the strengthening of bilateral trade relations. Its next meeting is scheduled for Colombo in April.
- The number of Russian tourists visiting Sri Lanka has increased after direct flights between Moscow and Colombo resumed in July 2021. As of the start of 2022, Russia has been the leader in tourist arrivals to the island.
- Thousands of Sri Lankan citizens have received higher education in Russia and the USSR over the past six decades, many of them becoming high-ranking officials, prominent businessmen and high-level specialists in various fields.
The proven nature of the close Russian-Sri Lankan relations and their current state indicate that bilateral political relations, according to the embassy, as well as mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, economic, educational and tourist spheres, as well as people-to-people contacts should be develop and intensify in the future.