COLOMBO (Reuters) – Ukrainian tourists staged an anti-war protest outside Russia’s embassy in Sri Lanka on Monday, and the country’s tourism minister said the government would consider visa extensions for visitors from Ukraine.
There are nearly 4,000 Ukrainians in Sri Lanka, which is desperate to attract tourists to offset a growing domestic economic crisis, Tourism Minster Prasanna Ranatunge said.
“I will be presenting a note to the cabinet meeting asking for their visas to be extended,” Ranatunge told Reuters, referring to a meeting scheduled to be held on Monday.
Flights in and out of Ukraine have been stalled after Ukrainian airspace closed to civilian users since last week.
Holding balloons in their country’s national colours and hand-written posters, about 150 Ukrainians gathered outside the Russian embassy in Sri Lanka’s main city of Colombo.
The protests come as fighting in Ukraine reached a fifth day following Russia’s invasion, which Moscow calls a special operation, the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two.
“My people currently in Ukraine are being killed by Russian invaders,” said Hanna Elena, 27, adding that she had been unable to contact some family members and friends back home. “Russian people, please go out on the streets,” said Elena, “If all of you can take action, things can change.”
On Sunday, a protest monitoring group in Russia said that more than 2,000 people had been detained by police after anti-war demonstrations across 48 cities.
(Additional reporting by Dinuka Liyanawatte; Writing by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)