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UAE defends stance on Russian individuals, talking to US

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan received Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov, at the Shati Palace in Abu Dhabi in March this year
  • Dubai has emerged as a refuge for Russian wealth
  • UAE seeks to maintain what it says is a neutral position on Ukraine war
  • Some in the West privately say the UAE position is untenable

The UAE is consulting with the US on sanctions targeting Russian individuals, but does not want to “lump together” all Russians into one category as some seek safe havens amid the Ukraine war, an Emirati official said on Friday.

Dubai, the Gulf’s financial and business centre, has emerged as a refuge for Russian wealth as Western sanctions target President Vladimir Putin’s allies. The UAE, seeking to maintain what it says is a neutral position on the war, has not imposed sanctions.

That has frustrated some in the West who privately say the UAE position is untenable and siding with Moscow.

“We are having intensive consultations with the US government on [Russian] individuals. We are a dollar-denominated economy so for us it’s important we have these conversations,” Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, told reporters ahead of a state visit to France.

“There are many Russians who are not sanctioned and are interested in safer havens. Many of these individuals do not feel welcome in European countries, feel that this war will take too long and are looking at alternatives. These non-sanctioned individuals have nothing to do with the war, and trying to lump them together with bigger issues is problematic,” he said.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf told a US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing in June that Washington was not happy about reports of Putin-linked oligarchs and businessmen sheltering assets in the UAE.

Gargash said non-sanctioned people were free to do what they wanted and the number of targeted individuals was small.

“We have a healthy engagement regarding designating individuals and a lot of people who are not designated are Russians worried for themselves and the hostility they see in places they used to live in,” Gargash said.