By Alexander Cornwell
DUBAI – Britain’s trade secretary on Thursday urged more nations to punish Russia for its war in Ukraine during an interview in the United Arab Emirates, which along with other Gulf states has so far resisted Western pressure to take sides.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, secretary of state for international trade, told Reuters that the invasion of Ukraine was “outrageous, unprovoked and an illegal war”.
“We encourage all countries to stand alongside us in making that very clear and bringing in the sorts of sanctions and limitations to those who choose to support (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” she said.
Dubai, the UAE financial centre, has emerged as a haven for Russian wealth that has shifted to the city as western sanctions targeted Putin allies and dealt a blow to the Russian economy.
Rich Russians have relocated to the country, set up businesses and bought luxurious houses there, sources have said.
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner owned by sanctioned oligarch Roman Abramovich arrived in Dubai on March 6, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. A U.S. court ordered it to be seized.
UAE officials, in private, have tried to reassure foreign counterparts, telling them sanctioned Russians would not be able to conduct business in the UAE, two diplomatic sources said.
Asked if there were concerns Russians were using the UAE to circumvent sanctions, Trevelyan did not mention the UAE but instead said imposing sanctions was a sovereign decision.
Trevelyan was concluding a two-day visit to the region during which she launched free trade negotiations with the Gulf Cooperation Council bloc that includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
She said an agreement could be reached within 12-24 months with the GCC, Britain’s seventh biggest export market, and which has not signed a free trade agreement in more than a decade.