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Russian gold shipments to UAE surge amid Ukraine war: Report

UAE reaps windfall from Russian gold with the precious metal contributing to the Emirates' record-breaking non-oil foreign trade
A shopkeeper wearing a protective mask amid Covid-19 pandemic looks out a jewelry shop window at Dubai Gold Souk in the Gulf emirate, on 10 March 2021 (AFP)

The UAE has become a hub for Russia’s gold trade since western sanctions cut Russia’s traditional export routes and the Emirates positions itself as a neutral player in the Ukraine war.

The Gulf state imported 75.7 tonnes of Russian gold worth $4.3 billion in the year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine - up from just 1.3 tonnes during 2021, according to Russian customs records first reported by Reuters.

China and Turkey were the next biggest destinations, importing about 20 tonnes each between 24 February 2022 and 3 March 2023. Together with the UAE, the three countries accounted for 99.8 percent of Russian gold exports, according to trade data reviewed by Reuters.

The disclosure underlines how states like Turkey and the UAE have become an economic lifeline for Moscow as it faces isolation in the West.

Middle Eastern countries have refused to sign on to western sanctions against the Kremlin and are profiting by buying up discounted Russian energy, exporting western products, and welcoming Russian emigres.

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The UAE is one of Washington’s oldest security partners in the region, but American officials have issued rare public criticisms of Abu Dhabi. In March, a senior US Treasury official called the UAE a "country of focus", as Washington looks to choke Russia's ties to the global economy.

The UAE has established itself as one of the largest and fastest-growing marketplaces for the gold trade. Business with Russia has contributed to an economic boom in the UAE. Last year, the country reported record-breaking non-oil foreign trade with gold as one of the leading export sectors, according to data provided by the UAE’s Ministry of Economy.

Dubai, in particular, has benefited from the economic fallout of the war in Ukraine. The city became the world's fourth most active luxury property market behind New York, Los Angeles, and London this year - thanks to a surge in interest from Russians who have become its biggest real estate buyers.

Besides welcoming Kremlin-linked oligarchs, Dubai is also benefiting from an influx of Russian tech workers, many of whom are looking to avoid the repercussions of Vladimir Putin’s war.

The UAE is also capitalising on western sanctions designed to cut Russia's access to its oil revenue. The UAE port of Fujairah has become a transshipment hub for Russian crude and petroleum products.

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