The Sri Lankan president says he has asked Vladimir Putin of Russia to help his troubled country import fuel, as it has been facing the worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1948.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he had “had a very productive conversation” with Mr Putin.
This comes after Sri Lanka’s energy minister over the weekend warned that the country could soon run out of fuel.
On Wednesday, hundreds of people protested in the streets of the capital Colombo against the government.
“I have asked for financial support to bring in fuel,” Mr Rajapaksa wrote on Twitter in reference to his interview with the Russian leader.
Mr Rajapaksa also said he had “humbly requested” that the flights between Moscow and Colombo be restarted, after Russian flag carrier Aeroflot suspended operations last month.
“We have unanimously agreed that strengthening bilateral relations in areas such as recreation, trade and culture is crucial in strengthening the friendship between our two nations,” he added.
The country has already bought oil in Russia in recent months to help boost fuel supplies in times of crisis, and the government has shown a willingness to buy more in this energy-rich country.
Mr Rajapaksa’s efforts to resolve Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis for more than 70 years, including access to financial aid in India and China, have so far failed to end many weeks of shortages of fuel, electricity, food and other basic necessities.
On Sunday, energy minister Kanchana Wijesekera said the country had enough fuel for less than a day as needed.
Last week, authorities suspended the sale of petrol and diesel to non-essential vehicles in an effort to curb the decline in fuel prices.
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What is causing the fuel shortage in Sri Lanka?
On Thursday, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka increased its key interest rate by 1 percent to offset the rising cost of living in the country.
Borrowing rate was increased to 15.5%, and the deposit rate was increased to 14.5%, the highest number in 21 years.
This comes as annual inflation reached a record high of 54.6% in June as food costs rose by more than 80%.
Hundreds of protesters gathered yesterday near Colombo’s parliament building to launch what they called “the last pressure” to overthrow Mr Rajapaksa’s government.
This week, the UK returned the advice against all but the most important travel to Sri Lanka due to the country’s civil unrest.
The Foreign Office warned tourists that they could face “protests, roadblocks and violent riots with short notice”.
Visiting countries against Foreign Office advice may make travel insurance ineffective, says the Association of British Insurers.
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He is willing to take risks
Anbarasan Ethirajan, South Asian Editor, BBC News
Sri Lanka desperately needs the help of Russian President Vladimir Putin in petrol and tourism, both of which are vital to the country’s economic recovery.
The island nation has run out of gas, crippled businesses, and public transportation.
It struggles to find oil shipments to its regular suppliers in the Gulf or elsewhere due to a lack of foreign exchange and banking and operational problems.
Western countries have imposed restrictions on Russian oil due to their invasion of Ukraine. But President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is clearly determined to risk inciting resentment in the Western capital.
Adding to Colombo’s woes, Aeroflot suspended passenger flights in Moscow-Colombo last month after a Sri Lankan court temporarily suspended one of its flights following a commercial dispute over payment.
Russians account for about one fifth of the total number of tourists who arrive in the months leading up to the war in Ukraine.
Even with the resumption of flights, it may not be easy to attract Russian tourists as they may find it difficult to pay for things while on vacation.
Several Russian banks have been cut off from the use of the international SWIFT payment system and Visa and Master credit cards have suspended Russian operations due to the Moscow war in Ukraine.
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Sri Lanka has seen its foreign exchange earnings dwindle due to economic mismanagement and the impact of the epidemic.
The result has been that it has been difficult to pay for essential goods from other countries, including gasoline, food and medicine.
In May, it failed to pay its debts for the first time in its history after a 30-day grace period to come up with a $ 78m (£ 63m) interest rate on arrears.
The country is currently in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over £ 3bn bail.
The Sri Lankan government has said it needs $ 5bn this year to fund an international community, including the IMF.