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Caught in Conflict: Sri Lankan Lives Lost on Ukrainian Frontlines

Caught in Conflict: Sri Lankan Lives Lost on Ukrainian Frontlines
Source: Getty Images

In the shadow of the ongoing war in Ukraine, a poignant human story unfolds, revealing the plight of Sri Lankans caught in the crossfire. Economic desperation has driven these individuals to seek employment in a foreign conflict, resulting in tragic losses for families back home.

Nipuna Silva, a 27-year-old father from southern Sri Lanka, represents one such story. Leaving behind his young family, Silva sought better prospects by joining the Russian forces in Ukraine. His decision, fueled by the economic turmoil and political instability that gripped Sri Lanka in 2022, led to a hunger crisis affecting millions. Silva's journey ended on the battlefields of Donetsk, where he was fatally wounded.

Silva's compatriot, Senaka Bandara, found himself in a dire situation when a Ukrainian attack on their bunker left him injured and forced to abandon Silva during a subsequent drone strike. The harrowing account of their retreat under fire paints a vivid picture of the dangers faced by foreign recruits in this war.

The lure of salaries up to $3,000 a month and the promise of Russian citizenship have drawn hundreds of Sri Lankans to serve with the Russian military. Yet, the reality of war has proven far more perilous than many anticipated, with at least two Sri Lankans reported killed fighting for Russia and three for Ukraine.