Russian dictator Vladimir Putin arrived in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), for the first part of a one-day Middle East trip that also includes a visit to Saudi Arabia, the Russian state-run news agency TASS reported on Dec. 6.
It was Putin's first trip to the region since 2019. Putin has only made a few trips abroad in 2023 after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant in March for his role in the deportations of Ukrainian children.
Neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE are party to the ICC's Rome Statute, meaning they are under no obligation to detain Putin.
The priority for the visits to the UAE and Saudi Arabia are bilateral relationships, but international issues will also be addressed, TASS said.
Russia has strong economic ties to both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which have increased following the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and Russia's subsequent economic isolation from much of the West.
Ukraine has also maintained relations with Saudi Arabia, which played an important role in negotiating prisoner exchanges with Russia.
Zelensky traveled to Saudi Arabia for the first time in May, meeting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and appealing to Arab leaders to support Ukraine's peace plan.
Western officials also gathered in the UAE in September 2022 to discuss strategies to counter sanctions evasion.
Russia often uses imports from third-party countries, such as the UAE, as a means of circumventing sanctions.
Bloomberg reported on Nov. 9 that the UAE has agreed to begin restricting the export of sensitive materials with potential military use to Russia.