As the tragic reality of war unfolds in eastern Europe, visitors to a defence show in Saudi Arabia were met with the surreal sight of seeing the latest Ukrainian and Russian military hardware competing for attention in pristine exhibition halls.

For Maxim Potimkov of Ukraine’s state arms exporter and importer, standing alone amid his country’s armoured vehicles, sales were the farthest thing from his mind.

“I came for this show because there has to be someone here and we have so much equipment here,” he told Reuters. “There was expected to be 50-plus people from Ukraine.”

Potimkov, from Kyiv, was travelling to Ukraine from a trade show in the United Arab Emirates when Russia launched its invasion last week, and he had to cancel his plans. Now back in the Middle East, he staffs a booth to promote Ukraine’s Kozark 7 and Kozark 2M tactical armoured vehicles and anti-drone systems.

Meanwhile, in an adjacent hall, Russian weapons makers were displaying Moscow’s hardware, including anti-aircraft weapons and air defence systems.

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