The Commercial Appeal

Russia sells weapons at Abu Dhabi arms fair

- Jon Gambrell

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

The event, known as the Internatio­nal Defense Exhibition and Conference and held in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, underscore­s how the Gulf Arab federation has sought to embrace Moscow while balancing its ties to the West.

As Russia’s war on Ukraine approaches its first anniversar­y on Friday, Russian money continues to flood into Dubai’s real estate market.

Daily flights between the Emirates and Moscow continue as the war grinds on, providing a rare lifeline for both those fleeing conscripti­on and the Russian elite. The U.S. Treasury has already expressed concerns about the amount of Russian cash flowing into the Arabian Peninsula country.

The arms fair typically sees the Emiratis host individual­s who could be seen as problemati­c in the West. Former Sudanese strongman Omar al-bashir came to the 2017 edition. Chechen regional leader Ramzan Kadyrov, himself now deeply involved in the Ukraine war, came in both 2019 and 2021.

This year’s event drew Libya’s Khalifa Hifter, the commander of the selfstyled Libyan National Army who faces a U.S. lawsuit accusing him of orchestrat­ing indiscrimi­nate attacks on civilians and torturing and killing political opponents.

To reach Russia’s exhibition tent, those attending the fair had to leave Abu Dhabi’s cavernous National Exhibition Center and cross along a skybridge to an outdoor area.

Russian officials delayed Associated

Press journalist­s from going inside their tent as an event was going on, initially without explanatio­n. About an hour later, AP journalist­s saw Denis Manturov, Russia’s minister of trade and industry, come out of the tent.

Manturov is sanctioned by both the United States and the United Kingdom, with London describing him as being “responsibl­e for overseeing the Russian weapons industry and responsibl­e for equipping mobilized troops” in the war on Ukraine. Yet Manturov described the ongoing war as providing advertisin­g for Russian weaponry.

“Any military action is further accompanie­d by interest in those products, those weapons that are in demand in a given military conflict,” he said, according to the Tass news agency. “Therefore, certainly, interest is now high in air defense systems – short-, medium-, and long-range ones.”

He added: “Each transactio­n is subject to close scrutiny from our Western colleagues – they are trying to create obstacles; we ensure the security of such deals so that they are as effective as possible and implemente­d privately.”

Emirati officials did not directly acknowledg­e Manturov’s presence. The U.S. State Department did not respond to a request for comment about Russia’s presence at the arms show in a country that hosts thousands of American troops.

Inside the Russian tent, a video screen proclaimed the power of Moscow’s surface-to-air missile systems, like those now being used to strike cities in Ukraine. Salesmen showed off Kalashniko­v assault rifles to Emirati troops.

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

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

In contrast, a giant armed drone by Baykar was parked next to the Russian tent. The Turkish drone company’s Bayraktar drones have played such a key role in Kyiv’s campaign against Russia there’s even a song in Ukrainian about the aircraft.

A short walk away, U.S. Army troops showed off a model of a Javelin anti-tank missile, allowing the curious to fire it in a computer simulation.

U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Evan Williams of the 2-116th Cavalry Regiment said he and his soldiers had talked to Russian visitors at the fair and others curious about the weapon, which Ukraine has used to deadly effect against Russian armored vehicles.

“You’ve seen people walk by and kind of do a double-take about it,” said Williams of Boise, Idaho. “They come talk to us, ask us questions about it.”

The U.S. Army also had a Patriot missile battery on display at the fair. American forces used the battery in combat for the first time in decades in 2022 to help defend Abu Dhabi against an attack by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

Meanwhile, Israel as well had its first full contingent of weapons companies on display, for the first time since the UAE diplomatic­ally recognized the country in 2020. Both Israel and the UAE’S leadership have a deep suspicion about Iran’s intentions, though the UAE has tried to deescalate with Tehran,.

Israeli-emirati ties have warmed even as Israel continues to build settlement­s on land the Palestinia­ns want for their future state and as more Israelipal­estinian violence spikes.

 ?? JON GAMBRELL/AP ?? Russian salespeopl­e show off a helicopter made by Russian Helicopter­s at the Internatio­nal Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Monday.
JON GAMBRELL/AP Russian salespeopl­e show off a helicopter made by Russian Helicopter­s at the Internatio­nal Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Monday.

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