The United States delivered 50 ventilators to Russia on Thursday, the first of 200 U.S.-made ventilators headed to the country, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow says. The equipment is part of a humanitarian aid package worth $5.6 million to help Russia fight the coronavirus, say U.S. officials.
In a statement, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow called the delivery “rapid fulfillment” of a request Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed on recent phone calls with President Trump.
“The United States and Russia have provided assistance to each other in the past and I have no doubt will do so in the future,” U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan said in a video announcing the arrival of the ventilators.
Russia delivered coronavirus-related equipment to the United States in April, which drew some criticism as a propaganda coup for the Kremlin.
The arrival of a Russian plane carrying ventilators, masks and respirators to New York was covered live on the Kremlin-supported Russia Today channel, which described the shipment as “humanitarian aid.”
The U.S. later insisted it had purchased the supplies. The Kremlin now says the two sides split the bill.
And the Russian shipment was controversial for other reasons: The Russian-made ventilators included in the deal were produced by a company under U.S. sanctions. U.S. emergency officials said those ventilators were returned after identical models caused two separate fires in Russian hospitals in Moscow and St. Petersburg earlier this month, killing six people.
The U.S. aid delivery comes as Russia reports just over 317,000 total coronavirus infections and 3,099 deaths.
The Kremlin has largely portrayed its efforts battling the virus as effective, citing what it considers its low death rate — compared with the U.S., which as the world’s highest fatalities from the virus — as a measure of Russia’s success.
While researchers and critics of the Russian government question the accuracy of the official Russian death toll, they’ve also lambasted the Kremlin for sending supplies abroad as hospitals and health workers in Russia’s far-flung regions complain about critical shortages at home.
In another twist, the U.S. Agency for International Development carried out Thursday’s ventilator delivery — the government agency’s first mission in Russia since the Kremlin expelled it in 2012.
At the time, the Kremlin accused the agency and USAID-supported Russian nongovernmental organizations of meddling in Russia’s internal affairs.