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Putin to visit Saudi Arabia, UAE in rare trip outside Russia

Putin plans to visit Abu Dhabi, UAE, this week, according to one person, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the topic. He also intends to travel to Saudi Arabia, according to another person. 

Russian outlet Life.ru reported earlier Monday that Putin would make a working visit to the two countries, citing Yuri Ushakov, a Kremlin adviser on foreign affairs. Ushakov also said Putin would meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t reply to messages seeking comment.

The excursion highlights the importance of the Gulf states to Moscow, given its dependence on energy-export revenues. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Russia are all members of OPEC , the alliance between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other major oil producers, and talks between the leaders will be key for Putin. 

In an interview with Bloomberg on Monday, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman emphasized the level of trust and cooperation between Riyadh and Moscow on oil policy. The relationship between the two countries forms the backbone of the OPEC alliance, which last week agreed to extend and deepen its production cuts.

The visit also comes as the UAE hosts the COP28 summit in Dubai, though Putin will arrive after most world leaders have left. The UAE has also become a home for many Russian companies fleeing the West amid sanctions. 

International Isolation

Putin has rarely left Russia since he ordered troops into Ukraine in February 2022, triggering a raft of international sanctions, though he has visited China and former Soviet neighbors. The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him in March for alleged war crimes, further complicating travel outside his country. 

“Putin feels more confident, this density of external visits has not been seen for a long time,” said Elena Suponina, a Middle East analyst based in Moscow. “For Putin, both in Saudi Arabia and in the UAE, the goals of the visit are the same: matters related to OPEC, the Middle East conflict and the Russian chairmanship of BRICS.”

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Updated: 05 Dec 2023, 12:58 AM IST

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