A planeload of medical supplies from Russia and paid for by the United States included ventilator machines manufactured by a company currently under U.S. economic sanctions, according to a report by the independent Russian investigative news site RBC. Ventilators are essential equipment for treating severe coronavirus patients, and state governors in the U.S. have complained that they are in short supply, as victims of the deadly pandemic swamp hospitals.
The Russian cargo plane carrying the ventilators and other equipment arrived at New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport on April 1. Asked at a White House press briefing the following day whether he believed that accepting aid from Russia gave the Kremlin a propaganda victory, Donald Trump said he was unworried about the issue, per a report from Reuters.
“I am not concerned about Russian propaganda, not even a little bit,” he said, as quoted by the outlet.
Trump added that Russian President Vladimir Putin “offered” the supplies, saying that he’ll “take it every day” because the supplies could save lives.
But Putin’s “offer” was not a “gift,” as it was described by the Russian state-owned news outlet RT, per quotes from The Daily Beast. In fact, according to Reuters — quoting an unnamed Trump administration official — the U.S. paid in full for the supplies, albeit at “below market value.”
— Russia Beyond (@russiabeyond) April 1, 2020
The ventilators, according to RBC, were manufactured by Ural Instrument-Making Plant. This is a division of the Russian electronics giant KRET, or Radio Electronic Technologies Concern, which has been under U.S. sanctions since 2014 as punishment for Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and military interference in Ukraine.
KRET remains under the toughest type of sanctions, with American citizens and businesses prohibited from engaging in transactions with the firm or any of its subsidiaries — such as the company that manufactured the ventilators now purchased by the U.S.
Trump also claimed at the Thursday press briefing that the supplies were part of an “excess” in Russia’s inventory, as quoted by Vox.com reporter Aaron Rupar via Twitter. But as that country faces its own growing coronavirus crisis, reports from inside Russia claim that medical equipment is actually scarce.
“They say, sew your own masks. There are no antiseptics… The doctors have no masks,” said one Russian legislator on the country’s own edition of 60 Minutes, as quoted by Daily Beast writer Julia Davis.
Though the Trump administration official cited by Reuters claimed that the U.S. had footed the entire bill for the planeload of medical supplies, the Russian Foreign Ministry claimed otherwise. Half of the cost, according to the Foreign Ministry, was paid by the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund, according to Davis’s report. The RDIF is a wealth fund founded by Putin in 2011 and is also under U.S. sanctions.