Russia sells weapons at Abu Dhabi weapons fair

Russia sells weapons at Abu Dhabi weapons fair

Russia sells weapons at Abu Dhabi weapons fair

Russia is offering weapons for sale 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 arms for sale at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference 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 Feb. 24, Russian money continues to flood into Dubai’s red-hot real estate market.

Daily flights between the Emirates and Moscow provide a lifeline for both those fleeing conscription and the Russian elite. The U.S. Treasury has expressed concerns about the amount of Russian cash flowing into the Arabian Peninsula country.

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

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

But while not directly acknowledged, the tendrils of Russia’s war on Ukraine could be seen everywhere at the fair on Feb. 20.

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.

Denis Manturov, Russia’s minister of trade and industry, was in attendance. 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.

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. Other model missiles sat on display.

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

A giant armed drone by Baykar was parked next to the Russian tent. The Turkish company’s Bayraktar drones have played such a key role in Kiev 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.

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.

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