Russian President Vladimir Putin discusses Israel-Hamas war in rare foreign trip to UAE

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Emirati President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan Credit: AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in the United Arab Emirates before departing for Saudi Arabia in a one-day lightning tour intended to raise Moscow's profile as a Middle East power broker.

Four Su-35 fighter jets escorted Putin's presidential jet all the way from Russia, landing at Abu Dhabi’s commercial airport on Wednesday.

Speaking at the start of his talks with UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Putin offered to discuss energy cooperation, the conflict in the Middle East and the “Ukrainian crisis.” 

He praised the current state of Russia's relations with the UAE and congratulated the country for hosting the COP28 climate talks.

After the Russian leader’s arrival in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, he and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman exchanged a strong handshake and smiles as they walked to their meeting.

Putin said Russia-Saudi relations have “reached a level they never saw before" and that “it’s very important to exchange information and assessments of what’s going on in the region”.

Mohammed, in turn, noted Russian-Saudi cooperation had helped strengthen security in the Middle East, adding that “our future political interaction and cooperation will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the global situation.”

It was Putin's first trip to the region since before the coronavirus pandemic and the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

He has limited his foreign travel since sending his troops to invade Ukraine in February 2022, but visited China in October and has made several trips to former Soviet nations in recent months.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with an officer upon his arrival at an international airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Credit: AP

Putin faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court over the war in Ukraine.

Neither the UAE nor Saudi Arabia has signed the ICC founding treaty, meaning they don't face an obligation to detain him over the warrant accusing him of being personally responsible for the abductions of children from Ukraine during the war.

Putin's visit comes after Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps told ITV News this week that the "rest of the world" cannot afford to '"give up and get bored" of supporting Ukraine.

"We cannot have a situation in the 21st century where an autocratic leader thinks it's okay to invade a democratic neighbour and that the rest of the world will just give up and get bored of it," Mr Shapps said.

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