Putin greeted with fanfare in UAE despite international arrest warrant

Vladimir Putin said relations with the UAE had reached unprecedented highs as he was welcomed to the country with a flypast and Russian flags, despite an international warrant for his arrest.

Putin’s meeting with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the UAE’s president, came as the Kremlin hailed Russia’s “main economic partner in the Arab world”.

The Russian president, who has been largely isolated since the war in Ukraine, was greeted with fanfare. He is wanted for the abduction of children in Ukraine by the International Criminal Court, to which the UEA is not a signatory.

At 2pm local time, he was taken to the palace of the sheikh in a presidential convoy as military helicopters flew overhead.

“Today, thanks to your posture, our relations have reached unprecedented levels,” Putin told Sheikh Mohamed on his arrival, praising high trade between the countries.

Outside the Qasr al-Watan palace, security was tight. Three soldiers shouted at The Telegraph’s taxi to turn away from the gates as Putin and a cavalcade of armoured Jeeps arrived.

On either side of a stretching drive leading through to the palace was a mounted guard of honour. Half of the rifle-armed men in national dress sat on Arabian horses, the other on camels; all carried either the Russian or the UAE flag.

As Putin entered the compound of the palace, which has a 121-foot diameter dome and a chandelier with 350,000 pieces of crystal, seven fighter jets flew past in formation for two passes overhead. Behind them trailed the white, blue and red of the Russian flag. The tricolour of the ostracised state hung above the Abu Dhabi skyline, as a volley of gunfire announced Putin’s arrival.

The 71-year-old autocrat was visibly delighted after witnessing the show put on in his honour.

“Thank you very much, it’s so beautiful,” he said. When Putin was asked about his mood, he replied, “Great! It was good, it got even better!”

Seven fighter jets flew past in formation for two passes overhead trailing the white, blue and red of the Russian flag.
Seven fighter jets flew past in formation for two passes overhead trailing the white, blue and red of the Russian flag. - KREMLIN.RU/REUTERS

Trade and oil will be on the agenda in the UAE, which is “Russia’s main economic partner in the Arab world”, according to a statement issued by the Kremlin ahead of the visit.

Putin will also discuss the situation in Syria and Yemen, and broader issues such as ensuring stability in the Gulf, the Kremlin said. A Kremlin aide said Ukraine would also be discussed.

No 10 sanctions UAE firms

Shortly after Putin touched down, the UK announced it was sanctioning four firms in the UAE accused of fueling Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said the businesses were using “opaque corporate structures and deceptive shipping practices” to help Russian oil exports, a key revenue generator for the Kremlin’s war machine, circumvent Western punitive measures over the invasion.

Russia has been using a “dark fleet” of tankers and companies operating outside of Western markets to avoid a $60 (£47) price cap on Russian oil barrels imposed by G7 countries.

Firms based in the UAE can legally buy and sell Russian oil at any price, as long as they are using non-European shipping and financial services providers. As a result, Emirati companies have softened the blow of the oil-related sanctions imposed by the likes of the UK, US and EU.

Vladimir Putin meets Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan after landing in the UAE
Vladimir Putin meets Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the foreign affairs minister, after landing in the UAE - AFP/ANDREI GORDEYEV

Putin’s visit to the Middle East comes as his forces are on the front foot in Ukraine and Western military support appears to be waning.

On only his third visit outside of the former Soviet Union since the war began, the Russian president is also expected to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia later on Wednesday.

He would then host Ebrahim Raisi, the president of Iran, in Moscow on Thursday, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, said.

Saif Islam, of the geopolitical risk consultancy S-RM, said: “While Putin is unlikely to return home with extraordinary gains, there are multiple considerations that underpin the trips. Most important of these is the desire to bolster bilateral relations, including cooperation on key issues such as the oil market.

“Another key objective is continuing to leverage relations with the UAE and Saudi Arabia to cope with Western sanctions over the Ukraine invasion.”

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