The Ukraine embassy in the UAE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The UAE, a major oil and natural gas producer, is caught between its ties to Moscow as well as a close relationship with Washington. Late last week, the UAE, along with a few other countries such as China, abstained from a United Nations Security Council resolution that criticized the Russian invasion of Ukraine. After taking heat for that decision, the UAE on Wednesday voted along with 140 other countries in the General Assembly to censure Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
But that hasn’t stopped Abu Dhabi from trying to play both sides: on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin talked with UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan about mutual interests between the two countries with the state news agency saying Sheikh Mohammed urged a “peaceful solution to the crisis in a way that guarantees the interests and national security of all parties.” Sheikh Mohammed, who has avoided criticizing Putin, said he wanted to help with efforts to find a way to end the crisis. They also said they would continue to cooperate on energy markets.
Around 15,000 Ukrainians live in the UAE, a haven for expatriate workers from many different countries. But the country — which relies on poorly paid guest workers — has not been welcoming to those fleeing conflict, even from the Middle East: the UAE refused to grant refugee status for Syrians escaping the civil war, although the country has said it had let in at least 100,000 Syrians via business visas or because of family ties.
In the last few years, the UAE has worked with Russia more frequently than before, and the country has partnered with the Russian sovereign wealth fund in joint investments outside of Russia. Late last year, Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, said he was interested in technology companies in the Middle East. RDIF and Dmitriev have recently been sanctioned by the U.S. and the West.
On the other hand, the UAE is a major purchaser of U.S.-made weapons and arms material and has been recently angling to spend billions of dollars on the F-35, high-tech drones and other air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons. The UAE also hosts thousands of American troops.