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Sri Lanka has ended free long-term visas for Russians and Ukrainians following outrage over a ‘whites only’ party

sri lankaTourists on a beach in Sri Lanka.

REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte

  • Sri Lankan authorities said it would scrap free long-term visas for Russian and Ukrainian tourists.
  • The move followed controversy caused by a Russian-organized “whites only” party.
  • Russian tourists have been a major boost to the struggling Sri Lankan economy. 

Sri Lanka has scrapped free long-term visa extensions for Russians and Ukrainians who headed to the country in the last two years, Reuters reported.

It follows outrage over a “whites only” event advertised at a Russian-run nightclub on the island.

The Sarayka lounge, situated in the popular resort town of Unawatuna in the south of the country, had planned to host a “White Party” last week.

But a poster about the event that was widely circulated on social media caused outrage as it included a line saying “Face Control: White,” which many people took to mean that non-white people would be refused entry.

Shortly after the party was canceled, the Sri Lankan Tourism Development Authority announced that it would be scrapping free long-term visa extensions for Russian and Ukrainian tourists as of February 23, although a 14-day grace period will allow those without new visas to stay until March 7.

Public Security Minister Tiran Alles told Reuters that any affected people wishing to remain in Sri Lanka would have to pay around $50 for a 30-day visa.

“Whoever wants to stay back can apply for new visas,” Alles said. “They can immediately renew their visas and remain here.”

In a statement issued in response to the nightclub incident, the Russian Embassy in Colombo said: “Russia strongly condemns all forms of racial discrimination and nationalism” and called on its citizens to follow local laws and customs.

Russians have flocked to the island since the Ukraine war broke out

Following the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Russians have flocked to Sri Lanka, and around 300 to 400 are thought to have remained there since, Priantha Fernando, the chairman of the island’s tourism body, said, per Reuters.

According to official statistics, almost 200,000 Russians and around 5,000 Ukrainians visited the island in 2023.

That has come as a welcome boost to Sri Lanka’s economy, which has struggled in recent years, with the country declaring bankruptcy in 2022 as it faced mounting foreign debt.

But its economy has shown some signs of revival more recently, growing by 1.6% from July to September, Reuters reported.

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