Audio of this story
A Russian military plane brought much-needed medical equipment to the U.S. on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin offered Donald Trump help for the U.S. battle with coronavirus.
“The Russian side offered assistance amid the dire epidemiological situation in America,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state-run Channel One Tuesday. “Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid.”
The U.S. State Department said the delivery was part of a purchase of medical equipment — including ventilators — agreed to during a March 30 phone call between Putin and Trump. The supplies were handed over to New York City on Wednesday, the department said.
“We are a generous and reliable contributor to crisis response and humanitarian action across the world, but we cannot do it alone,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in the statement. “This is a time to work together to overcome a common enemy that threatens the lives of all of us.”
After Peskov’s comments on Tuesday, a video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry showed a transport plane filled with boxes it said contained masks and other medical equipment taking off from a Moscow region airfield in darkness.
Trump and Putin have maintained a close relationship despite tensions between the U.S. and Russia over issues ranging from U.S. intelligence agency findings that Russia interfered in American elections to the Kremlin’s role in Ukraine and Syria. The Kremlin denies that it has meddled in American elections.
After Putin made the offer during his call with Trump, the U.S. president praised the assistance as “very nice.” Some within Trump’s administration were less upbeat about the help, according to Peskov.
“There was an impression that some of the people on the American side at the very least didn’t contribute to the prompt resolution of technical issues in order to carry out the agreements between the two presidents,” he said.
The shipment comes amid a growing coronavirus outbreak in Russia, where some critics believe the official statistics understate the real situation. Russia on Wednesday reported a 19% increase in cases overnight, bringing the total number of infected to 2,777.
The Kremlin hopes that the U.S. will reciprocate with medical assistance as it increases its production capacity if Russia needs help, Peskov said.
The latest aid shipment comes less than a week after Jack Ma, China’s richest man, donated more than a million masks and 200,000 coronavirus test systems to the Russian military.