US welcomes Russian delivery of medical supplies to New York
The U.S. on Wednesday night welcomed a Russian shipment of medical supplies, part of an effort by the State Department to source priority goods needed to combat the coronavirus from other countries.
The Russian delivery, which landed in New York, included ventilators, personal protective equipment and other medical items, the State Department said in a statement. The U.S. made the purchase following a phone call between Washington and Moscow earlier in the week.
“As a follow-up to the March 30 phone call between President Trump and President [Vladimir] Putin, the United States has agreed to purchase needed medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protection equipment, from Russia, which were handed over to [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] FEMA on April 1 in New York City,” State Department Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.
A U.S. official told NBC News the shipment contained 60 tons of ventilators, masks and respirators, among other items.
Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, tweeted that half the shipment was purchased by the U.S. while half was provided by the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund that invests in Russian businesses.
To answer a lot of questions that we receive in this regard: following our presidents’ arrangement half of the delivered equipment was provided by #Russian Direct Investment Fund, half purchased by the US side #COVID19 #NewYorkCity
— Dmitry Polyanskiy (@Dpol_un) April 1, 2020
“It is a good gesture of solidarity with New Yorkers who are in a very difficult situation at the moment. I think they will embrace it,” Polyanskiy told reporters.
The transfer of goods is an example of the dramatic shift in how the world responds to a crisis. The U.S. is normally considered one of the leading providers of humanitarian assistance abroad but amid the global coronavirus pandemic is struggling to provide the necessary resources at home.
New York, which is considered the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S., has appealed for and welcomed donations of needed medical resources, including personal protective equipment and ventilators.
The U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort arrived in New York City on Monday to ease the burden on hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus cases. The state has recorded more than 92,000 cases as of Thursday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins University, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Thursday it will exhaust its ventilator stockpile in six days.
Last week, member nations of the Group of 20 large economies committed to expanding the manufacturing capacity of needed medical supplies, at an “affordable price,” and delivering them to where they are needed as quickly as possible.
“The countries of the G20 agreed last week to work together to defeat the coronavirus, and we are working closely with these countries and others to ensure that critically needed supplies get to those in need,” the State Department’s Ortagus said in the Wednesday statement.
The State Department has said it’s asking its embassies abroad to track countries with surplus supplies available for purchase.
Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov told reporters that he expects delivery of resources to go both ways as countries work on different scales to contain the virus within their own borders.
“At the moment, we have resources that can be allocated to support other countries who suffered most from the coronavirus,” he said. “The possibility that we would also need help from abroad can’t be ruled out. We have friends who are ready to help us.”
Russia has recorded over 3,500 cases of coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Yet critics say Putin is using the opportunity to promote himself as a global leader and tout a political victory back home.
“Nothing to see here. Just a Russian military aircraft landing at JFK with 60 tons of medical supplies to support America’s #COVID19 response,” tweeted Brett McGurk, a former State Department official under the Trump, Obama and Bush administration. “A propaganda bonanza as our own government shrinks from America’s leadership role in a global crisis.”
Nothing to see here. Just a Russian military aircraft landing at JFK with 60 tons of medical supplies to support America’s #COVID19 response. A propaganda bonanza as our own government shrinks from America’s leadership role in a global crisis. pic.twitter.com/8TKyFqym9E
— Brett McGurk (@brett_mcgurk) April 1, 2020
President Trump has often touted his close relationship with Putin despite strain over Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and Moscow’s continued and coordinated campaign of disinformation against the West.
Trump has dismissed allegations that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election.
The president on Monday praised Russia and China for sending supplies to the U.S.
“China sent us some stuff, which was terrific. Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice. Other countries sent us things that I was very surprised at, very happily surprised,” he said.
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