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Russia’s sanctioned interior minister visits Saudi Arabia

Russia’s sanctioned interior minister visits Saudi Arabia

A top Russian official who faces sanctions in the West over Moscow’s war on Ukraine visited Saudi Arabia and held talks with his counterpart in the kingdom early on Tuesday, state media reported.

Russian interior minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev’s visit to Riyadh came just days after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed an Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea port city of Jeddah on Friday.

The visits underline how the kingdom and Gulf Arab states, traditionally the security clients of the United States, have been maintaining their relations with Moscow amid the Ukraine war.

The state-run Saudi Press Agency said Mr Kolokoltsev met Saudi interior minister prince Abdulaziz bin Saud.

“During the session they discussed ways to enhance security co-operation paths between the two countries’ ministries of interior, in addition to discussing a number of issues of common interest,” the report said, without elaborating.

Mr Kolokoltsev, 62, has been sanctioned by the US since 2018 as part of a slew of sanctions over Russia’s activity in both Syria and Ukraine.

The US treasury says that Australia, Canada, the EU, Japan, New Zealand and the UK all separately have sanctioned Mr Kolokoltsev as well.

The US also refused to grant him a visa to take part in a UN chiefs of police summit in 2022, something criticised by Moscow.

Since the war in Ukraine began, oil giant Saudi Arabia has been purchasing Russian diesel fuel at steep discounts, given western sanctions on Moscow.

That diesel has been cheaper for the kingdom to use while it exports its own crude oil products abroad to take advantage of global prices.

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, the king’s powerful son, also has tried to position the kingdom as a potential negotiator between Kyiv and Moscow to end the war.

“The kingdom is ready to continue mediating between Russia and Ukraine and to support all international efforts to end the crisis politically toward peace,” the prince told the Arab League summit on Friday.