Saudi Arabia hosts Russian interior minister days after Zelensky visit to Jeddah
Saudi Arabia hosted a Russian official on Tuesday, just days after Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the kingdom.
Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev visited Saudi counterpart Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud in Riyadh merely four days after Zelensky had spoken at the Arab League summit held in Jeddah.
Kolokoltsev has faced sanctions since 2018, as part of wide-ranging sanctioning efforts by the US, as well as the EU and UK among others.
The sanctions primarily relate to the 2022 Russian invasion, but also to Russia’s military intervention in Syria on behalf of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Last year, the US denied Kolokoltsev a visa to attend the UN chief of police summit in New York.
In Russia, Kolokoltsev has taken a firm hand on freedom of speech. He has closed down media outlets that have investigated his personal wealth, while he has been instrumental in cracking down on Russian anti-war protesters.
Saudi Arabia is traditionally a close ally of the US and has historically followed its lead on international affairs. However, over the past few years, a perceived decrease in US power has seen the kingdom has pursue a more unilateral foreign policy, forging closer ties with Russia and China in particular.
Saudi Arabia has maintained strong relations with Russia despite officially supporting the Western position on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
Saudi scored a diplomatic victory last September when it successfully negotiated a prisoner swap deal between Russia and Ukraine, despite its continued and growing dealings with Russia.
Riyadh remains one of the leading importers of Russian diesel, defying the Western bans on buying Russian oil products. It is a massive investor in Russian energy firms.