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Putin to Visit Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. on Wednesday

President Vladimir V. Putin will make a rare trip to the Middle East on Wednesday, the Kremlin announced, saying he would discuss bilateral relations, oil and international affairs in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The trip is part of a flurry of diplomatic meetings the Russia leader will conduct this week; on Thursday in Moscow, Mr. Putin will host President Ebrahim Raisi of Iran, the leader of another key player in the region.

Mr. Putin, who has not traveled beyond China, Iran and the former Soviet states since he launched the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, will visit both the Emirates and Saudi Arabia in one day, Dmitri S. Peskov, his spokesman, told journalists during a briefing on Tuesday.

The meetings, announced unexpectedly, come as Ukraine tries to shore up Western aid for its war effort, amid signs of eroding support in the United States. President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the U.S. Senate on Tuesday in an attempt to stress the urgency of maintaining American financial and military backing.

Mr. Putin’s trip will also come against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war, a conflict that has played into his geopolitical aims by distracting Western leaders from the war in Ukraine and by giving him a new opportunity to appeal to the global public, given the widespread sympathy in many nations for the Palestinian cause.

Though he has called Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack a terrorist act, Mr. Putin has likened his war in Ukraine to the Palestinian resistance, claiming that both represent struggles against the dominance of Western elites.

Mr. Peskov said that Mr. Putin would discuss the war between Israel and Hamas and also possible joint actions to coordinate global oil production to ensure price stability. Calling the Russian leader’s diplomatic carousel this week “a concentrated shot,” Yuri Ushakov, Mr. Putin’s foreign policy aide, said that Russia’s war in Ukraine would be on the agenda too.

“It is inevitable,” said Mr. Ushakov, according to Interfax, a Russian news agency. “It would be important for our colleagues to listen to Vladimir Putin’s assessments of how the situation is developing.”

Saudi Arabia has attempted to act as a mediator in the war, inviting some 40 countries for a peace conference in August and helping to conduct a successful prisoner exchange last year that included American and British citizens, with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman mediating the release.

Now, there is renewed speculation in Russia about possible peace talks, amid questions over the durability of Western support for Ukraine and as Ukrainian officials acknowledge that this year’s counteroffensive failed to achieve a significant breakthrough.

Citing an unnamed, high-ranking Russian source, Izvestia, a pro-Kremlin daily, reported on Tuesday that Russia would not oppose conducting talks with Ukraine in a European country, such as Hungary. In an interview with RBC, a Russian business daily, Grigory Yavlinsky, a longtime Russian politician who met with Mr. Putin in October, said that he had offered to become an intermediary in such talks.

Mr. Zelensky, who has vowed that Ukraine will keep fighting to liberate its territory, told The Associated Press in an interview last week that he did not yet feel pressure from allies to negotiate with Russia, though “some voices are always heard.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Mr. Zelensky, dismissed the latest suggestions that Russia would be willing to negotiate as nothing more than an attempt to get an “operational pause” to “prepare the next phases of aggression.”

“Russia by the word ‘negotiations’ means only an ultimatum, capitulation and guarantees for Russia that it will not be prosecuted for war crimes and can resume the war at any time,” he said in a statement.

There was no change in Ukraine’s position, he wrote.

Shot, a Russian Telegram channel that first reported on Mr. Putin’s travel plans on Monday, said that the president would visit the United Arab Emirates first and then go to Saudi Arabia to meet with Prince Mohammed.

On Monday, Mr. Ushakov, Mr. Putin’s foreign policy aide, told Shot that the Kremlin considered the talks with Prince Mohammed “very important.”

“I hope these negotiations will be very useful,” he said.

Joint efforts on oil production — coordinated through the OPEC Plus group of oil producers — have contributed to the development of strong ties over the years between Russia and Saudi Arabia and personally between Mr. Putin and Prince Mohammed.

However this year, points of friction have opened between the two countries as Saudi Arabia leads OPEC Plus in an effort to slash oil production and prop up prices, with limited success so far. While the kingdom has made a voluntary oil production cut of 1 million barrels a day, Russia has contributed smaller cuts to its exports, but not its production — despite Saudi attempts to convince Russian officials to take more action.

“We did try,” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the Saudi energy minister and Prince Mohammed’s half brother, said in an interview with Bloomberg News on Monday. He emphasized that there was still a high level of trust between the two countries on oil.

“I honestly believe they are doing everything by the book,” he said.

Over the past few years, Prince Mohammed has sought to position Saudi Arabia as a global power capable of bringing warring parties to the table; the kingdom has mediated peace talks in Sudan’s civil war and re-established ties with its regional rival, Iran.

The Emirati ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed has also worked to position himself as a mediator, and played a role in Russia’s release of the American basketball player Brittney Griner in a prisoner exchange a year ago. Ms. Griner was delivered from Russian custody on a tarmac at the airport in Abu Dhabi.

Both countries have pushed back against American and European pressure to distance themselves from Russia since its invasion of Ukraine, saying that they are more useful as potential mediators than they would be if they were forced to choose a side.

Marc Santora contributed reporting.

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Nathan is an experienced journalist. He's covered a broad spectrum of topics, including politics, culture, and human interest stories, always aiming to engage and inform his audience. Nathan has a degree in Journalism and upholds the highest standards of integrity and accuracy in his work.

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