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So-called friends

President of United Arab Emirates, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin
President of United Arab Emirates, Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, welcomes Russian President Vladimir Putin

In a rare overseas foray, Vladimir Putin has travelled to Abu Dhabi and Riyadh to discuss oil production with the Emiratis and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The Russian president is seeking Arab help to circumvent the sanctions imposed by Nato countries.

Despite a pledge by the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut output, prices have continued to fall. Controlling oil supply and pushing up prices matter to the Kremlin as it seeks to fill up its coffers to fund its war with Ukraine. Russia’s defence budget was recently increased to one third of GDP at a time when Ukraine is receiving less aid from the West.

Helping Russia prosecute its war must be considered an unfriendly act by the UK which has been supporting Ukraine. Yet Abu Dhabi’s president Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan greeted Putin as his “dear friend” even though he is subject to an international arrest warrant on charges of war crimes. He was even honoured with a fly-past.

The UAE is behind an attempted takeover of the Telegraph newspapers which is currently subject to an inquiry by Ofcom, the media regulator, and the Competition and Markets Authority. The Government has not, however, sought to question this sale on national security grounds.

As Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, wrote in this newspaper, the inquiry should also look at the wider risks of allowing a foreign state to take over a British newspaper. The Government has shied away from this approach in order not to offend a supposedly friendly nation. But by welcoming Putin, Abu Dhabi has forfeited that description and made such an inquiry essential.

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