While Washington and its allies are trying to cut financial flows supporting Moscow’s military effort, Russia is offering its crude at a steep discount, making it extremely enticing to a number of countries.

Since Russia’s onslaught on Ukraine in late February, global oil prices have skyrocketed.
Since Russia’s onslaught on Ukraine in late February, global oil prices have skyrocketed. (AP)

Sri Lanka may be compelled to buy more oil from Russia as the island nation hunts desperately for fuel amid an unprecedented economic crisis, the newly appointed prime minister has said.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said on Saturday that he would first look to other sources, but would be open to buying more crude from Moscow.

“If we can get from any other sources, we will get from there. Otherwise (we) may have to go to Russia again,” he said.

Since Russia’s attack against Ukraine in late February, global oil prices have skyrocketed. 

While Washington and its allies are trying to cut financial flows supporting Moscow’s military effort, Russia is offering its crude at a steep discount, making it extremely enticing to a number of countries.

Wickremesinghe also indicated he would be willing to accept more financial help from China, despite his country’s mounting debt. 

“We need to identify what are the projects that we need for economic recovery and take loans for those projects, whether it be from China or from others,” Wickremesinghe said. “It’s a question of where do we deploy the resources?”

Sri Lanka is also seeking financial assistance from the World Food Programme, which may send a team to the country soon, and Wickremesinghe is banking on a bailout package from the International Monetary Fund. 

But even if approved, he doesn’t expect to see money from the package until October onwards.

READ MORE: Crisis-hit Sri Lanka gets Russian oil to ease shortages

Ukraine conflict may prolong crisis

And while he acknowledged that Sri Lanka’s current predicament is of “its own making,” he said the conflict in Ukraine is making it even worse — and that dire food shortages could continue until 2024. 

He said Russia had also offered wheat to Sri Lanka.

“I think by the end of the year, you could see the impact in other countries” as well, he said. “There is a global shortage of food. Countries are not exporting food.”

Wickremesinghe, who is also Sri Lanka’s finance minister, said that, one day shy of a month after he took over for a sixth time as prime minister. 

Appointed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resolve an economic crisis that has nearly emptied the country’s foreign exchange reserves, Wickremesinghe was sworn in after days of violent protests last month forced his predecessor, Rajapaksa’s brother Mahinda Rajapaksa, to step down and seek safety from angry crowds at a naval base.

Sri Lanka has amassed $51 billion in foreign debt, but has suspended repayment of nearly $7 billion due this year. 

The crushing debt has left the country with no money for basic imports, which means citizens are struggling to access basic necessities such as food, fuel, medicine — even toilet paper and matches. 

The shortages have spawned rolling power outages, and people have been forced to wait days for cooking gas and gasoline in lines that stretch for kilometres.

READ MORE: UN: Sri Lanka risks full-blown humanitarian emergency

Source: AP