On an artificial island on the edge of the Persian Gulf, Dima Tutkov feels safe.
There are none of the anti-Russian attitudes that he hears about in Europe. He has noticed no potholes or homelessness, unlike what he saw in Los Angeles. And even as his ad agency turns big profits back in Russia, he does not have to worry about being drafted to fight in Ukraine.
“Dubai is much more free — in every way,” he said, sporting an intricately torn designer T-shirt at a cafe he just opened in the city, where his children are now in a British school. “We are independent of Russia,” he said. “This is very important.”
A year into a historic onslaught of economic sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s rich are still rich. And in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates’ biggest city, they have found their wartime harbor.
Among the city’s waterfront walkways, palatial shopping malls and suburban cul-de-sacs, Russian is becoming a lingua franca. Oligarchs mingle in exclusive resorts. Restaurateurs from Moscow and St. Petersburg race to open there. Entrepreneurs like Mr. Tutkov are running their Russian businesses from Dubai, and opening up new ones.
Dubai’s new Russian diaspora spans a spectrum that includes multibillionaires who have been punished with sanctions and middle-class tech workers who fled President Vladimir V. Putin’s draft. But to some extent, they share the same reasons for being in the Emirates: It has maintained direct flights to Russia, staked out neutral ground on the war in Ukraine, and, they say, displays none of the hostility toward Russians that they perceive in Europe. [Continue reading…]