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Putin Makes Rare Trip Abroad With Visit To Saudi Arabia, UAE

by tbhad

RFE/RL, Moscow

In a rare trip abroad as an international arrest warrant hangs over him, Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on December 6 before heading home for a meeting with Iran’s president the next day.

The Kremlin said on December 5 that bilateral relations and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be discussed during the meetings, while issues concerning the oil market, “are also always on the agenda.”

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in March issued arrest warrants for Putin and his children’s commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova, for being responsible for the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia — a war crime under international legislation.

While Putin did not make many foreign trips before the warrant was issued, he has curtailed his travel even more since.

He did not attend the G20 summit in India in September, and has limited his recent trips to countries such as China and states of the former Soviet Union.

With the warrant, Putin became the third serving head of state to be targeted in an arrest warrant from the ICC, the world’s permanent war crimes tribunal, along with Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi.

The Kremlin did not give details of Putin’s agenda, but the online news outlet Shot, which first reported the trip, quoted Kremlin foreign policy aide Yury Ushakov as saying the Russian leader would travel first to the U.A.E. before heading on to Saudi Arabia, where talks would include a meeting with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.

Putin and the prince have developed close ties over the years as they worked to form a group of leading oil producers, now known as OPEC+, in late 2016. The group has worked to support the price of oil, and last week announced voluntary supply cuts.

Following the one-day trip, Putin will return home and meet Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the Kremlin said.

Putin visited Iran in July 2022, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Tehran in October.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Iran has widely been accused of delivering cheap but effective kamikaze drones to Moscow.

While Iran denies the allegations, saying it only sold drones to Moscow before the war started, U.S. officials have repeatedly accused Tehran of supplying Shahed-136 Iranian drones that Russia has used to destroy civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. There has been evidence of Iranian drones rebranded as Russian Geran-2s being used on the battlefield.

And as the two countries have increased military-technical cooperation, Iran’s Defense Ministry has routinely showcased its ballistic, cruise, anti-tank, and air-defense missile systems to Russian officials.

This has raised fears Moscow and Tehran could try to expand their existing arms dealing to include more advanced weaponry, know-how, and technology that could boost both Russia’s war effort in Ukraine and Iran’s ballistic-missile and drone programs.

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