Russians have flocked to set up businesses and buy property in the United Arab Emirates in an effort to secure residence and park assets in the Gulf as the US, UK and EU tighten financial sanctions, relocation experts, brokers and lawyers said.
President Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine, western sanctions on the Russian central bank and the removal of some lenders from the Swift messaging network have made it harder for Russians to establish themselves outside their home country. Some are looking to the UAE, long a financial haven for those fleeing instability as well as a popular tourism and investment destination for Russians.
There are already an estimated 40,000 Russians and 15,000 Ukrainians in the UAE, along with about 60,000 Russian-speaking expatriates from former Soviet states. Oligarchs’ super yachts often drop anchor in Dubai, a playground for the super-rich.
Emirati officials have said the country would welcome Russian investors and Ukrainian refugees while acknowledging western sanctions. Local lenders also voiced caution. They can still open accounts for Russians, but it is “no longer a simple or easy thing to do”, said one banking executive. “With these new sanctions in place, banks will find it much harder to accept transfers from Russia, in any form,” he said.