As Western nations have sanctioned Russian gold in response to the Kremlin’s brutal war on Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates has stepped in to fulfill Moscow’s need for a major buyer. The UAE was the number one importer of Russian gold last year, purchasing 96.4 metric tons of the precious metal, according to the United Nations’ Comtrade database. The import total is 15 times more than the UAE purchased from Russia in 2021 and represents approximately one-third of Russia’s annual gold production. Russian customs records confirm the UAE’s central role in helping Russia evade punishment for its invasion of Ukraine. The records, which include nearly one-thousand gold shipments in the year since the Russian invasion, show the UAE imported 75.7 metric tons of Russian gold between February 2022 and March 2023, according to Reuters.
Prior to the war, Russia had shipped most of its gold for export to London, a global hub for gold trading and storage. But shortly after the invasion, multinational banks and gold refiners stopped handling Russian gold. Shortly afterwards, the London Bullion Market Association banned the trading of new Russian bars. The United States, Great Britain, the European Union, Switzerland, Canada, and Japan all joined in sanctioning Russian gold.
But it is now clear that Russia soon found the United Arab Emirates was happy to become Moscow’s prime trading partner. China and Turkey also stepped in to buy from Moscow, with each accounting for about 20 metric tons of imports between February 2022 and March 2023, according to the Russian customs data.
Further complicating the Western effort to sanction Russia is the fact that its exported gold can be melted down and recast, then sold by dealers back onto the global precious metals market.
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