Saudi King takes 1,500 staff to Russia

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a welcoming ceremony in the Kremlin, Moscow, on Thursday. During the first visit to Russia by a Saudi monarch, the two countries have already struck a deal on weapons sales and d
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a welcoming ceremony in the Kremlin, Moscow, on Thursday. During the first visit to Russia by a Saudi monarch, the two countries have already struck a deal on weapons sales and discussed ways to stabilise the oil market.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

But he has to walk halfway down from plane after golden escalator malfunctions at airport

MOSCOW • Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz took 1,500 people, a golden escalator and his own carpets on his historic, four-day state visit to Russia, a person familiar with the matter said.

The 81-year-old leader of the Gulf kingdom exited his plane late on Wednesday and stepped out onto the special escalator he travels with. But something went wrong: It malfunctioned halfway down, and he had to walk the rest of the way.

A cavalcade of cars sped the monarch to the centre of the city, flanked by Russian police escorts.

During the first visit to Russia by a Saudi monarch, the two countries have already struck a deal on weapons sales and discussed ways to continue to cooperate on stabilising the oil market.

And as they have done in other cities, the Saudis made themselves at home in Moscow.

A Saudi plane is travelling daily between Riyadh and Moscow to transport supplies, said the person, who said that 800kg of food has been brought in.

Members of the royal entourage also replaced some of the hotel staff with their own personnel, the person said.

King Salman, who is staying at the Four Seasons, also came with his own furniture.

  • 1

    Golden escalator which Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz took with him on his visit to Russia.

  • 1,500

    Members in his royal entourage.

  • 800kg

    Food brought in daily from Riyadh.

The Saudi government booked two entire luxury hotels for the visit: the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons. The latter had to ask some guests to cancel their reservations to make room, and even moved out people who live in the hotel permanently, people familiar with the matter said.

Representatives from the Ritz and Four Seasons declined to comment. The royal court in Riyadh did not respond to a request for comment on the size of the delegation.

United States presidents also travel with large entourages, including a bullet-proof limousine and a Secret Service protection force, and sometimes also book entire hotels.

Former US president Barack Obama stayed at the Ritz in Moscow during a 2009 trip.

The bill for fully booking the two hotels during the visit may run about US$3 million (S$4 million), not including what the delegation will spend on services, restaurant meals and spa treatments, said Mr Vadim Prasov, vice-president of the Federation of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers of Russia.

Deals worth at least US$2.1 billion were signed during the visit, the Kremlin said on Thursday.

The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, national oil company Saudi Aramco and the Russian Direct Investment Fund signed an agreement to set up an energy investment fund of US$1 billion, a Kremlin statement said.

The Saudi fund will also invest US$100 million in the construction and operation of roads, railways, city transport and other public-private projects in Russia.

BLOOMBERG, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2017, with the headline 'Saudi King takes 1,500 staff to Russia'. Print Edition | Subscribe