Vladimir Putin looking forward to seeing 'old friend' Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed

Russian official says there is much to discuss during this week's timely meeting

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is looking forward to seeing an “old friend” when he visits the UAE on Tuesday.

Leonid Slutsky, head of Russian Parliament’s committee on internal affairs, said Mr Putin had planned to visit the UAE many times since his first visit in 2007 but was always thwarted by an overloaded schedule.

"I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner," Mr Slutsky told The National at the Duma headquarters in Moscow.

“It has been planned and postponed many times. But the Russian president’s diary is overloaded.”

Mr Slutsky said Mr Putin considered Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, as one of the key figures in the Arab world.

He said Russia and the UAE are expected to deepen ties across space, technology and defence, in particular.

The UAE’s first astronaut, Hazza Al Mansouri blasted into space on a Russian rocket and Mr Slutsky said this was just the first step in space co-operation between the countries.

“We are looking forward to the visit and there is a lot to discuss," he said.

Mr Putin will arrive from Saudi Arabia on Tuesday morning with a delegation of ministers, trade representatives and officials.

A priority is expanding economic ties, particularly through the partnership between Mubadala and the Russian Direct Investment Fund, which has helped 45 projects in Russia across defence, energy and aviation.

But Mr Slutsky said the visit was not just a simple trade delegation, but a timely meeting between two friends.

“They are good friends. Vladimir Putin and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed talk all the time on the phone,” he said.