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Russia’s sanctioned interior minister visits Saudi Arabia

Vladimir Kolokoltsev meets with counterpart Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud to discuss security cooperation, just days after trip by Ukraine’s Zelensky

Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev arrives to attend a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin with senior military officers in Moscow, Russia, December 21, 2022. (Sergey Fadeichev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev arrives to attend a meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin with senior military officers in Moscow, Russia, December 21, 2022. (Sergey Fadeichev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — A top Russian official who faces sanctions in the West over Moscow’s war on Ukraine visited Saudi Arabia early Tuesday and held talks with his counterpart in the kingdom, 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 held 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 Kolokoltsev met with Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud.

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

Russian media did not immediately report on the visit.

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 European Union, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom all separately have sanctioned Kolokoltsev as well. The US also refused to grant him a visa to participate in a United Nations chiefs of police summit in 2022, something criticized by Moscow.

As interior minister, Kolokoltsev has cracked down on independent media in Russia, including targeting the outlet Proekt in 2021 as it prepared to publish an investigation about his alleged wealth. Police also have been instrumental in putting down any attempted demonstration in Russia after President Vladimir Putin launched his 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

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 37-year-old 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.

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