Colombo, June 6 (EFE).- A plane of the Russian national carrier that had been stranded in Sri Lanka for four days finally took off for Moscow on Monday, hours after a Colombo court suspended an enjoining order that prevented it from leaving the country.
The plane took off from Colombo airport at 6pm local time, airport officials, who asked not to be named, told EFE.
Earlier during the day, hundreds of people gathered peacefully in front of the Russian Embassy in Colombo, demanding the Sri Lankan government take urgent action over the detention of the Aeroflot plane.
The protesters submitted a statement to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe asking for a quick resolution of the matter.
They sent a letter of apology to Russian President Vladimir Putin through the Russian Ambassador to “protect the peace” between the two nations.
The protest was sparked after an Aeroflot aircraft, scheduled to leave the Bandaranaike International Airport for Moscow on June 2, was stopped over an enjoining order by the Colombo Commercial High Court.
The plane was to leave with 191 passengers and 13 crew members.
“The Commercial High Court of the Western Province issued an enjoining order on the Aeroflot flight restraining it from taking off from Bandaranaike International Airport,” said a foreign ministry statement.
The statement said the issue related to a commercial dispute between the Irish Celestial Aviation Trading and Russia’s Aeroflot. The Airport and Aviation Services of Sri Lanka was the second defendant.
The Irish firm was seeking to confiscate the Aeroflot jet after Russia failed to return its property following EU sanctions on Moscow, among them a ban on leasing planes following the invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian foreign ministry has demanded Sri Lanka resolve the situation and warned that it could be detrimental to bilateral relations.
An Airport and Aviation Services statement said it was not subject to any effective enjoining order from the court since the issue was purely commercial and should not involve the government.
However, the protesters were not satisfied with the state’s stand on the matter.
“We cannot tolerate this,” WN Sampath Perera, president of Professional Tour Guides Alliance, told EFE. “This is going to affect the friendly relations Sri Lanka and Russia had over the years.”
He said Russia had always been an ally of Sri Lanka and voted for it at the United Nations Human Rights Council, provided thousands of scholarships to Sri Lankan students, and even helped to strengthen the crisis-hit economy with tourism.
Russia remains Sri Lanka’s second-largest tourist market, the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority data showed.
Grappling for foreign currency, tourism officials say that the island nation needed to ensure the issue got resolved soon. EFE