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Russian President Vladimir Putin said relations with the UAE were better than ever, on his first visit to the Gulf since the full invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago.
Putin thanked its ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan for the “UAE’s stance”, saying this had allowed relations between the two countries to reach “an unprecedentedly high level”.
He is also scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, where he will meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The whistle-stop tour is seen as part of an attempt by Moscow to show it can maintain close ties with the Gulf despite western attempts to force the region to comply with restrictions and sanctions against Russia.
Putin is also seeking to show that his country has not been isolated from the world because of his sputtering war in Ukraine, ahead of upcoming presidential elections in 2024.
Russian news agencies on Wednesday published a video of Putin, who has limited his travels to countries of the former Soviet Union, China and Iran since the invasion of Ukraine, getting off his plane and shaking hands with the UAE delegation, as well as a group of jets flying over the UAE’s presidential palace, painting the sky in the colours of the Russian flag.
Putin and the UAE ruler will use the visit to discuss a range of issues, from energy and trade co-operation to the war in Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict.
“Of course, we will talk . . . about the situation in the trouble spots, first and foremost the Arab-Israeli conflict. I will definitely inform you about the situation with the Ukraine crisis,” Putin told Sheikh Mohammed, according to the video.
Putin has brought a delegation of high-ranking Russian officials with him, including central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina, his top energy official Alexander Novak, and Denis Manturov, Russia’s trade minister with a mandate to restore supply chains.
Representatives of the most important Russian energy companies are also travelling and will take part in the talks, according to state news agencies.
After Abu Dhabi, the delegation will travel to Riyadh for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed.
Saudi Arabia is Russia’s key partner in Opec+, while the UAE has become the main international hub for Russian businesses and a significant route for circumventing western sanctions.
According to Putin, the turnover of goods between Russia and the UAE increased almost 68 per cent in 2022. “I believe that this year [the growth] will be even greater,” he added.
Putin enjoys close relations with both the oil-exporting Gulf states, which have remained neutral in the Ukraine conflict. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have not ratified the statute that governs the International Criminal Court, which has indicted the Russian president for alleged war crimes.
Crown Prince Mohammed and Sheikh Mohammed have developed personal relationships with Putin and touted themselves as interlocutors between Russia and the west. The two have been central to various mediation efforts relating to the Ukraine war, including prisoner swaps.
Saudi Arabia’s economic partnership with Russia has been most strongly felt in the oil market. Prince Mohammed played a crucial role in helping bring Moscow into a broader Opec+ grouping, which last week expanded and deepened output cuts.
Source: Financial Times