Russia Sells Weapons At Arms Fair In Abu Dhabi Amid Ukraine Conflict

The International Defence Exhibition and Conference, held in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, exemplifies how the Gulf Arab federation has sought to embrace Moscow while maintaining ties with the West

Despite facing Western sanctions over its war in Ukraine, Russia offered weapons for sale on Monday at the biennial arms fair in the United Arab Emirates, ranging from Kalashnikov assault rifles to missile systems.

The International Defence Exhibition and Conference, held in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, exemplifies how the Gulf Arab federation has sought to embrace Moscow while maintaining ties with the West.

As Russia's war in Ukraine approaches its one-year anniversary on Friday, Russian capital continues to pour into Dubai's brisk real estate market.

As the war continues, daily flights between the Emirates and Moscow continue, providing a rare lifeline for both those fleeing conscription and the Russian elite. The United States Treasury has already expressed concern about the amount of Russian money flowing into the Arabian Peninsula country.

Typically, the Emiratis host individuals who could be considered problematic in the West during the arms fair. Former Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir attended the 2017 edition. Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen regional leader now deeply involved in the Ukraine conflict, arrived in 2019 and 2021.

Russian officials initially refused to allow Associated Press journalists to enter their tent while an event was taking place. According to AP journalists, Denis Manturov, Russia's trade and industry minister, emerged from the tent about an hour later.

Manturov has been sanctioned by both the US and the UK, with London describing him as “responsible for overseeing the Russian weapons industry and equipping mobilised troops” in the war on Ukraine.

Inside, a video screen extolled the might of Russian surface-to-air missile systems, such as those now used to attack Ukrainian cities. Emirati troops were shown Kalashnikov assault rifles by salesmen. Other toy missiles were on display.

Russian Helicopters displayed several of its civilian aircraft just outside the tent, flanked by attractive young women in silver flight caps.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the UAE's ruler, was not present at the event, which was attended by his brother, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan. However, at the arms fair, one Russian magazine printed an English edition with photos of Sheikh Mohammed smiling and shaking Russian President Vladimir Putin's hand during an earlier visit to Moscow.

Baykar's massive armed drone, on the other hand, was parked next to the Russian tent. The Turkish drone company's Bayraktar drones have played such an important role in Kyiv's anti-Russia campaign that a song about the aircraft has been written in Ukrainian.

A short distance away, US Army soldiers displayed a model of a Javelin anti-tank missile, allowing visitors to fire it in a computer simulation.

According to US Army 1st Sgt Evan Williams of the 2-116th Cavalry Regiment, he and his soldiers spoke with Russian visitors at the fair and others curious about the weapon Ukraine has used to deadly effect against Russian armoured vehicles.

“You've seen people walk by and do a double take, they come up to us and talk to us about it,” Williams of Boise, Idaho, said.

At the fair, the US Army also displayed a Patriot missile battery. In 2022, American forces used the battery in combat for the first time in decades, assisting Abu Dhabi in defending itself against an attack by Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Meanwhile, Israel displayed its first full contingent of weapons companies since the UAE diplomatically recognised the country in 2020. Both Israel and the UAE's leadership are deeply suspicious of Iran's intentions, though the UAE has attempted to de-escalate with Tehran, which is now enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels than ever before.

Even as Israel continues to build settlements on land that Palestinians want for a future state and as Israeli-Palestinian violence escalates, Israeli-Emirati relations have improved.

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