Russian President Vladimir Putin was escorted by four Russian fighter jets on Wednesday as he jetted in to the Gulf on a rare trip abroad.
The Kremlin chief’s plane was flanked by Sukhoi-35S fighter jets as he arrived in the UAE earlier, as he looks to shore up support in the Gulf by visiting the United Arab Emirates while it hosts the COP28 climate talks.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan welcomed his “dear friend” in the capital Abu Dhabi, to the fury of Ukrainians at the COP28 climate conference over the damage to Ukraine’s countryside by Russia’s latest invasion.
Alina Abramenko, worker at the Ukrainian pavilion at COP28, said: “Crime against environment should be declared as an international crime.”
She called it “strange” that we can “speak about environmental crimes and we can invite (Vladimir) Putin to be here”.
Mr Putin did not visit the conference site, which is always policed by the United Nations for the duration of the talks.
In a show of solidarity with Ukrainians, US climate envoy John Kerry made a point of visiting Ukraine’s pavilion at COP28 on Wednesday.
It is a rare trip for the Russian president, who faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC) that accuses him of being personally responsible for the abductions of children from Ukraine during his war on the country.
Neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE has signed the ICC founding treaty, meaning they have no obligation to detain Mr Putin over the warrant.
Soldiers on horseback and with camels lined President Putin’s arrival route, with Russian and Emirati flags draped from lampposts.
The conspicuously warm welcome from the Emirates, which has major security ties with the US, reflects the UAE’s business ties to Russia that have exploded since Western sanctions targeted Moscow.
Later he flew on to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, where they will discuss oil, Gaza and Ukraine.