Why is the UAE a hot spot for Russians dodging sanctions?

World Saturday 12/March/2022 06:47 AM
By: DW
Why is the UAE a hot spot for Russians dodging sanctions?
In Dubai, a luxury villa comes with a residency visa

Dubai: On its website, the Dubai-based lifestyle magazine Russian Emirates offers readers a selection of commonly asked questions. They include everyday queries about where to find Russian food in the United Arab Emirates, and whether there are Russian- speaking doctors there. But by far the most popular question on the Russian-language magazine is this one, with over 83,000 views: "Can I get UAE citizenship?"

Over the past two weeks — that is, since Russia invaded Ukraine and Western nations imposed sanctions as a result — the readership of the Russian Emirates website has almost doubled to nearly 300,000 views in a week.

That is a trend that is likely to continue, experts say, as Russians look for ways to avoid sanctions and secure their wealth. Some are likely also trying to escape what they see as an increasingly perilous political situation at home.

One oil industry insider, who visited the emirate of Dubai this month, told DW about a palpable change in atmosphere there. "There's the feeling that this is an incredible game changer, in terms of the influx of capital to Dubai as a result of Russians exiting [their country] and looking for safe havens financially," they said.

Elsewhere there have been reports of Russians private jets flying back and forth from Moscow to Dubai. A Ukrainian newspaper reported local intelligence agency suspicions that the oligarchs were ferrying private property to Dubai for safety.

Open source investigators, using maritime traffic websites, spotted several superyachts moored in Dubai too. Because the UAE hasn't imposed the same tough sanctions on Russia, the superyachts are safe there.

Invisible increases?

Despite its long-term security relationship with the US, the UAE has attempted to avoid taking a side in the Russia-Ukraine war and has not imposed sanctions.

As a result, Russian-speaking business consultants in Dubai have told international media there is a huge increase from inside Russia in requests for information.

"There is increasing concern that Dubai will indeed become an even greater hub for Russian  money," Jodi Vittori, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington and expert on corruption, illicit finance and state fragility, confirmed.