How a Playground for the Rich Could Undermine Sanctions on Russian Oligarchs
Allies of President Vladimir Putin, arriving on private jets and yachts, are still welcome in the U.A.E., which has yet to condemn the Ukraine invasion or enforce sanctions.
March 9, 2022 NYT
Stretching into the Persian Gulf from the beaches and skyscrapers of Dubai is a man-made archipelago in the shape of a vast palm tree, its branchlike rows of islands lined with luxury hotels, apartments and villas.
Among the owners of those homes are two dozen close allies of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, including a former provincial governor and nuclear power plant manager, a construction magnate and former senator, and a Belarusian tobacco tycoon.
At least 38 businessmen or officials linked to Mr. Putin own dozens of properties in Dubai collectively valued at more than $314 million, according to previously unreported data compiled by the nonprofit Center for Advanced Defense Studies. Six of those owners are under sanctions by the United States or the European Union, and another oligarch facing sanctions has a yacht moored there. For now, they can count themselves lucky.
The Emirati stance is exposing tensions between the USA and several of its closest Arab allies over their reluctance to oppose the Russian invasion. Asked for solidarity in a moment of crisis, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have instead prioritized relations with Moscow — the Emirates and Saudi Arabia by rebuffing American pleas for increased oil supplies to soothe energy markets, Egypt by muffling criticism of the invasion while proceeding with a $25 billion loan from Russia to finance a nuclear power plant.
One of the newest friends of the U.A.E. is Israel who has also has prioritized relations with Russia over the USA.
Policymakers in Israel recognize they won’t be able to maintain their relatively ambiguous policy regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for much longer as the crisis there further escalates, Israeli television reported Friday.
“If things calm down in the next few days and are headed to dialogue, Israel will maintain its current approach… of humanitarian support for Ukraine, declarative condemnations of the Russian invasion and no sanctions,” an unnamed government source told Channel 12 news. “But if the situation continues to escalate, and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin deepens the invasion, and the victims and killing mount, Israel will be compelled to join the Western effort to impose sanctions.”
The Council of the European Union has imposed sanctions on 26 more people and one entity due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including noted Russian-Israeli billionaire Mikhail Fridman.
Fridman is the co-founder of Alfa Bank, one of the largest private banks in Russia as well as being a co-founder of the Genesis Philanthropy Group. He recently came out calling for a resolution to a conflict he said was “driving a wedge between the two eastern Slav peoples of Russia and Ukraine who have been brothers for centuries.”