MOSCOW, RUSSIA – SEPTEMBER 9: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech during the concert marking the City Day on September 9, 2023 in Moscow, Russia. Putin and Moscow’s Mayor Sobyanin, who is expected to be re-elected this week took part in the festive events. (Photo by Contributor/Getty Images)
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Russian President Vladimir Putin will make “working visits” to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, in his first trip to the region since the war in Ukraine began in February 2022.
Both countries are key trading partners for Russia, and have remained neutral in the Ukraine conflict, refusing to adopt Western-led sanctions against the country for its invasion of Ukraine. Putin has made very few journeys outside Russia’s borders in recent months, and these visits spotlight the importance of the oil-rich Mideast Gulf Arab states to the Kremlin’s international relations.
In Abu Dhabi, Putin will meet with UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and “is expected to review the current state of multifaceted bilateral cooperation and the prospects for further expansion of ties, as well as current international issues, with a focus on the situation in the Middle East,” according to a Kremlin readout.
The Russian leader will then meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh to “discuss bilateral cooperation in trade, economic and investment areas” as well as “exchange views on the regional and international agenda,” the readout said.
The visits will be followed by Putin hosting Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow on Thursday. The Kremlin’s alliance with Iran has grown dramatically in importance, as Tehran has become a key trade partner and supplier of the weapons that Russia deploys in Ukraine.