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Protests in Sri Lanka. The crowd took over the presidential palace


President Gotabai Rajapaksa left the residence on Friday and, according to some reports, is trying to fly out of Colombo. "The president was escorted to safety," a senior defense source told AFP. "He's still the president, he's guarded by the military."

Saturday's mass protests are among the biggest this year in the island nation, which has been gripped by a severe economic crisis. In Sri Lanka, a country of 22 million people, inflation is running high and there is a severe shortage of fuel, food and medicine.

The country's prime minister, Ranil Wickremessinghe, called an emergency meeting of his party's leaders and ordered the speaker to convene parliament immediately. The authorities tried to prevent Saturday's protests by declaring a curfew on Friday, but they had to lift it after human rights groups and opposition parties opposed it.

Parliament speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said the country's president will resign on July 13. Before that, the current Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Ranil Wickremessinghe, resigned.

Sri Lanka is experiencing the worst economic crisis since 1948, when the country got out of British control. The country lacks fuel, food and medicine. Last month inflation in the country exceeded 50%. Last week, authorities suspended the sale of gasoline and diesel fuel for non-essential vehicles in an attempt to conserve fuel stocks in the country.

The government has tried to get fuel on credit from other countries, including Russia, to no avail. Authorities blamed the crisis on the Covid-19 pandemic, which virtually wiped out Sri Lanka's tourism industry, one of its largest sources of foreign exchange. But many experts argue that economic helplessness is to blame.

Since March, demonstrations have continued to demand the resignation of President Rajapaksa. The deepening economic crisis forced the president's older brother Mahinda Rajapaksa to step down as prime minister in May.


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