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In the UAE, Russians fleeing Ukraine struggle search success in ‘Dubaisk’

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Russians have at all times been a part of the odd cultural mosaic of Dubai’s marina, with its yachts and chain cafes, gyms and beauty surgical procedure clinics, mosques and bars. But since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, a torrent of newcomers has arrived — now not looking for refuge from bitter winters, however from struggle and worldwide sanctions.

“Putin’s a terrorist, and I don’t want to go to war for his ambitions,” mentioned Sergei Tulinov, 35, a tattoo artist from Kaliningrad who offered his enterprise and moved to Dubai shortly after Russia introduced a partial navy mobilization in late September. “I see no reason to defend my homeland when no one attacked it.”

He selected Dubai for its excessive residing requirements, low taxes, and straightforward visa necessities for Russians, saying “there’s none of the Russophobia that’s growing elsewhere in the world because of the war.”

With tattoos much less well-liked within the Middle East than at dwelling, Tulinov plans to open a magnificence salon specializing in everlasting cosmetics for Dubai’s image-obsessed “glitterati.”

This cosmopolitan city-state within the oil-rich United Arab Emirates has lengthy positioned itself as a nonaligned haven for international wealth and finance. Now, the UAE’s determination to not be a part of Western sanctions towards Moscow over its struggle in Ukraine has made Dubai a brand new hub for fortune-seeking Russians, who see a lot of the remainder of the world closed off to them.

The Russian males fleeing mobilization, and leaving every part behind

Russians can get a 90-day vacationer visa upon entry and may get hold of residency by an employer or a brand new freelance visa program.

According to property brokerage Betterhomes, Russians had been the most important single group of nonresident consumers from July to September this 12 months. Many of those “investment properties” within the marina are empty, whereas others are rented out by their house owners — both is a handy method to park cash. Some purchases are reportedly being made with cryptocurrency, a well-liked avenue for skirting sanctions.

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The UAE doesn’t publish a breakdown of residents’ nationalities, however Russians right here discuss of a whole bunch of hundreds of recent arrivals for the reason that struggle. Several Western banks — together with JP Morgan and Bank of America — have moved employees from Russia to Dubai in response to sanctions. Data from Russia’s federal statistics company exhibits that between July and September, some 277,000 of its residents traveled to the Emirates — greater than 3 times as many as in contrast with the identical interval in 2019, earlier than the pandemic.

Olesya Sabra, an English instructor from southern Russia, arrived simply days earlier than the struggle broke out, looking for a recent begin in a sunny spot close to the ocean. She rapidly arrange a community of practically 300 college students, principally from the marina and different upscale neighborhoods. The majority are Russians or Russian audio system dashing to be taught Dubai’s working language. “Everywhere you go you hear Russian,” she mentioned. People have Russianized town’s identify — they name it ‘Dubaisk’ now.”

An rising variety of her college students are males of navy age, she mentioned: “I used to teach primarily young women seeking a rich husband, now it’s mostly young men who show up barely speaking English and trying to find work here.”

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Unlike the push of males who fled haphazardly to international locations bordering Russia within the wake of Putin’s mobilization announcement, the Russians arriving in Dubai typically have more cash and extra bold plans. Many see an opportunity to spend money on a spot that has turn into one in every of 2022’s few financial success tales — pushed by petrodollar-funded funding, in addition to a string of profitable IPOs and a inventory alternate that has persistently outperformed extra established rivals.

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Large Russian pavilions are ever-present on the metropolis’s commerce exhibits, sporting a “Made in Russia” marquee. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov just lately traveled to the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi for conferences to develop on what each side name a “strategic partnership”; UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan met Putin in Russia in October. As one outstanding Russian lawmaker famous final month, the UAE is the main Arab vacation spot for Russian investments and is the most important Arab investor in Russia.

But the UAE’s quick and unfastened quest for development has spurred some criticism. In March, the Paris-based intergovernmental Financial Action Task Force positioned the UAE on its “gray list” of nations not doing sufficient to fight cash laundering and unlawful monetary actions. The UAE has mentioned it’s dedicated to working with the FATF towards enchancment. Either method, due to cryptocurrency, Russians in Dubai say they don’t have any drawback transferring funds, even when sanctions imply most of their financial institution playing cards don’t work.

On The Palm, a man-made island subsequent to the marina, a moneyed Russian enterprise clique travels between conferences in million-dollar Maybach limos and Brabus customized sports activities rigs, flanked by bodyguards, then retreat to luxurious resorts. Nearby, a number of sanctioned oligarchs, together with members of Putin’s inside circle, have moored their superyachts.

“Despite all the news, business within Russia is still booming, and these guys need working bank accounts — especially for dealing with Europe,” mentioned enterprise guide Adel Maher, who has seen a surge in demand from Russians trying to arrange companies and set up residency to allow them to use Dubai as a go-between for transferring cash between Russia and Europe.

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Tulinov, the tattoo artist, has extra modest goals. Like many new arrivals, he didn’t wait round to see if he’d acquired a draft card.

“I’ve lost five military friends killed in Ukraine, it’s terrible. Most of the young people in Russia, they don’t believe the propaganda, that’s the older generation,” he mentioned.

“When I left, every authority asked me when I’d return,” he added. “I won’t.”

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For others, Dubai is just a stopover. At one cafe within the marina, a half-dozen Russian males of their 20s had breakfast earlier than logging on for distant work. All had plans to keep away from navy service in the event that they acquired what they referred to as “the invitation.”

“In Moscow I felt pressure all around me, every day you are waiting for something bad to happen,” mentioned Bogdan, 27, an IT employee who spoke on the situation that he be recognized solely by his first identify for concern of reprisals. “Every conversation leads to war.”

Bogdan mentioned he often travels to flee the Russian winter, however he plans to remain overseas for longer this 12 months. “I love Moscow so I’ll be back. And Russia’s my home. I just hope I will not be forced someday to leave it forever.”

Natalya Abbakumova in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.

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