Putin makes rare foreign trip to Gulf states

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An aerial aerobatic team in the UAE performs a flyby as Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives
By George Wright & Nadeem Shad
BBC News

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a rare trip abroad to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.

Expected discussion topics included the wars in Gaza and Ukraine, as well as oil production, with the UAE president.

The UAE is currently hosting the COP28 UN climate summit.

Mr Putin, who has barely left Russia since March when the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued him an arrest warrant, will also see Iran’s leader on Thursday in Moscow.

The ICC has accused him of illegally deporting Ukrainian children to Russia – a war crime – but neither the UAE nor Saudi Arabia recognise the court’s jurisdiction.

The Russian leader has snubbed other recent international summits including Brics in South Africa in August and the G20 summit in September in India.

The trips come as Russia is keen to project influence and undermine the West’s attempts to isolate it.

Mr Putin was greeted in the UAE with a full cavalry escort and motorcade while a national aerial acrobatics team drew the Russian flag in the sky with smoke trails.

Russia’s leader told UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan that “our relations have reached unprecedented levels”.

Trade and oil will be on the agenda in the UAE, which a Kremlin statement said is “Russia’s main economic partner in the Arab world”.

The Russian president later travelled to Saudi Arabia to meet the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Vladimir Putin was welcomed by the UAE’s foreign minister
Mr Putin meeting the crown prince in Riyadh

During a brief televised sitdown chat Mr Putin invited the crown prince to visit Moscow.

“Nothing can prevent the development of our friendly relations,” he said, adding that it was important “to exchange information and assessments” on current regional events.

The crown prince said bilateral co-operation had “helped remove many tensions in the Middle East”.

The controversial leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, was also spotted attending the meeting between Mr Putin and the de facto ruler of the Gulf state.

Head of Russia’s Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov

Ahead of the meeting the Kremlin reported that that two leaders would “consider ways to promote de-escalation” in the conflict between Israel and Hamas and that conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Sudan would be discussed in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Russian news agency Tass also reported that Russian government spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, had confirmed that Mr Putin and the crown prince had discussed Opec+ cooperation.

Kremlin officials have announced that Mr Putin will meet Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi on Thursday to discuss the war in Gaza.

Mr Putin has visited only Russian-occupied Ukraine, Iran and China since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

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