UAE's Air Arabia launches new flight route to Samara in Russia

UAE's Air Arabia launches new flight route to Samara in Russia
As much of the world seeks to isolate Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine, the UAE is opening its fifth flight path to a Russian destination, with a new route to Samara.
2 min read
25 May, 2023
The UAE has opened its fifth flight route to Russia from Sharjah to Samara [Getty]

The UAE’s Air Arabia has announced the launch of its fifth new Russian route starting on 1 October, the airliner said on Tuesday.

The carrier, which is the largest low-cost airline in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), will fly between Sharjah International Airport and Kurumoch International Airport in Samara three times a week.

Adel Al Ali, the Group CEO of Air Arabia, said the new service "underscores our commitment to continuously providing our customers with affordable travel options while supporting trade, tourism, and cultural exchanges". 

Most major airlines ceased flights to Russia since the beginning of the war. However, the UAE had maintained normal air travel with Moscow - a move considered by many to be controversial. 

This expansion of flights by the Emirati airline appears to be a blatant indicator of the UAE’s intent to maintain close ties with Russia despite the global sanctions and outrage against its war in Ukraine.

When the invasion of Ukraine began, the UAE defied the US and its other Western allies by abstaining from a UN Security Council resolution condemning it. 

Since then, while it has not supported Russia directly, it has become a haven for wealthy Russians and Russian businesses seeking to circumvent sanctions. 

A leak last month revealed that Russia had been caught bragging about its work with the UAE to undermine US and UK intelligence services. 

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The UAE has also emerged as a key trade hub for Russian gold after sanctions cut off traditional routes, according to a recent report by Reuters. Although the UAE claimed it had stopped buying it, Russian customs documents show it to be the largest destination for their gold, followed by Turkey and China. 

Russia and the UAE had grown close prior to the war in Ukraine, with both allying in Libya in support of the warlord Khalifa Haftar.  The UAE and Russia have also aligned over attempts to rehabilitate the regime of Bashar al-Assad. 

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While the UAE and Russia have had similar political views, opposing the Arab Spring uprisings and democratic rule in the MENA region, their latest dealings - whether in air travel or gold - are believed to be purely for trade and material gain.

The UAE has seen the opportunity to fill the void left by the Western sanctions on Russia for its own benefit.

Russia sees in the UAE a state that could be key to letting it economically survive the ramifications of its costly war on Ukraine.