Bahrain FM Zayani takes shelter during Ukraine visit amid Russia’s bombing

Bahrain’s top diplomat Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani made a three-day visit to Kyiv this week and experienced first-hand shelter life in the Ukrainian capital due to Russia’s bombing. 

A senior diplomatic source told Al-Monitor that Zayani “experienced the shelter life” in Kyiv on Wednesday and Thursday nights, referring to the bomb shelters used by Ukraine to shield people from Russian aerial attacks.

“The visit occurred despite the escalatory environment [between Russia and Ukraine]. The foreign minister experienced the shelter life both nights he was there,” the senior diplomat said. 

Ukraine’s military said that Russia launched an aerial assault on the capital via drones Thursday night, the fourth assault in four days, Reuters reported. Moscow said its assault was in response to an alleged drone attack on the Kremlin on Wednesday. Russia blamed Ukraine for the Kremlin attack, but Ukraine denied the allegation while many observers cast doubt on the Russian narrative.

Zayani’s visit is the first by a Bahraini foreign minister since the two countries established relations in 1992. On Friday, he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who thanked Manama for its “unwavering support of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine amid countering full-scale Russian aggression,” referencing Bahrain’s votes at the United Nations on the issue, Zelenskyy’s office said in a statement on Friday.

The diplomatic source added that the purpose of Zayani’s visit was to encourage other world leaders to visit Ukraine.

“The visit is an illustration of Bahrain’s stance on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine that it has consistently proved through its foreign policy. This has been particularly established at the UN, where its voting record on Ukraine-related resolutions has been consistent with the United States and like-minded partners,” Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. It reiterated the kingdom’s commitment to achieving peace in Ukraine. 

Zayani’s meeting with Zelenskyy was also attended by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, Bahrain’s Ambassador to Germany Abdullah Abdullatif Abdullah, Director-General of the Affairs of Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry Talal Abdulsalam Al-Ansari, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Bahrain Dmytro Senik, and other members of Zayani’s delegation, the official Bahrain News Agency reported on Friday. 

The chairman of Ukraine’s parliament, Ruslan Stefanchuk, also met with Zayani, according to the agency. 

Why it matters: The visit constitutes a strong show of solidarity with Ukraine despite Bahrain’s good relations with Russia.

Last year Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called Bahrain a “reliable partner,” and he visited Manama in May 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa also held a phone call last October.



The Gulf countries have for the most part maintained neutrality since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in part due to Moscow’s wide-ranging interests in the region and as Russia is a member of OPEC+. 

Russia’s relations with the Gulf are strengthening. In March, the Saudi Cabinet approved the kingdom’s decision to join Russia and China in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Bahrain also became a dialogue partner of the organization in September of last year.

A number of Russian billionaires have moved money into the UAE due to Western sanctions related to the war. 

At the same time, Ukraine’s relations with Gulf states are improving. In March, UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed received Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska in Abu Dhabi. Ukraine and the UAE also began discussions on a trade deal last December. In February, Saudi Arabia pledged $400 million in aid to Ukraine. 

Know more: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan visited both Ukraine and Russia earlier this year. The trip was part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to mediate the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are close allies.

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