Kremlin says Putin to visit Saudi Arabia, UAE on Wednesday

Kremlin says Putin to visit Saudi Arabia, UAE on Wednesday

Putin has missed high-level gatherings abroad since Moscow launched large-scale hostilities in Ukraine
Putin has missed high-level gatherings abroad since Moscow launched large-scale hostilities in Ukraine

MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin will visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday, the Kremlin has announced, as Moscow courts allies abroad despite being isolated by the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Putin has limited his international travel since deploying troops to Ukraine and the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for him, accusing the Russian leader of deporting Ukrainian children.

"President Putin will go on a working visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia tomorrow," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday.

In Saudi Arabia, Putin will discuss trade, international politics and humanitarian aid with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Kremlin announced.

He will meet his counterpart Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the UAE for talks on trade, energy, tourism and education, it added.

The conflict between Israel and Hamas is on the agenda of both meetings, the Kremlin said.

The United Arab Emirates is hosting the COP28 UN climate talks, but the Kremlin did not specify whether Putin would attend any related events.

- 'Political show' -

Putin has missed several high-level gatherings abroad since Moscow launched large-scale hostilities in Ukraine in February 2022.

Putin skipped the BRICS summit in South Africa in August to avoid causing a "political show".

He also missed the in-person flagship G20 summit in September -- although he attended a virtual G20 meeting in November.

Since March, Putin has been wanted by the ICC, and member states are expected to make good on the warrant if the Russian leader enters their country.

Neither the UAE nor Saudi Arabia have signed the ICC's founding treaty, which means they would not have to arrest him.

Putin visited China in October, his first visit outside the former Soviet Union this year.

Several days earlier, he travelled to ex-Soviet Kyrgyzstan in his first foreign visit since the ICC issued its warrant.

After Putin's trip this week, he is expected to host Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Thursday.

Russia is strengthening its economic and military ties with Iran, which has also been targeted by Western sanctions.

- Iran meeting -

Western countries have accused Tehran of supporting Russia's offensive in Ukraine by providing it with large quantities of drones and other weaponry.

Putin visited Iran in July last year and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov travelled to Tehran in October for talks with regional counterparts.

Iran's official news agency Irna said Raisi would be travelling to Moscow following an invitation from Putin.

"Bilateral issues, including economic interactions, as well as discussions about regional and international issues, especially the situation in Gaza, will be high on the agenda of the one-day trip," it reported.

Moscow has blamed the United States for failing to resolve the long-standing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

And Russia has positioned itself as a potential mediator -- having maintained ties with both Israel and Hamas.

It has leveraged its ties with Hamas to free several Russian hostages, separate from an Israel-Hamas truce deal.

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