US sends 200 ventilators to Russia as coronavirus crisis deepens


US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin arrive for a meeting in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018.

Brendan Smialowski | AFP |Getty Images

The U.S. is to send 200 ventilators to Russia after President Vladimir Putin called President Donald Trump to ask for help, according to the U.S. State Department.

The U.S. will start to deliver the ventilators to Russia this week as the country experiences “a true public health crisis due to the Covid-19 outbreak,” the State Department told CNBC Tuesday,

Russia’s coronavirus cases neared 300,000 on Wednesday, cementing its position as the country with the second-highest number of confirmed virus cases after the U.S., which has over 1.5 million cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

“In response to President Putin’s request for assistance, President Trump offered to donate and deliver 200 ventilators to the Russian people. The first 50 ventilators are being produced by the manufacturer in the United States, and are expected to be ready for shipment May 20,” the spokesperson said.

The U.S. said the sending of medical aid to Russia was part of a raft of measures it had taken to help its global allies and that it wanted to improve U.S.-Russia relations, which have been strained in recent years following its  annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and meddling in the U.S.’ 2016 election, both of which drew international condemnation and led to economic sanctions on Russia.

“The United States seeks a better relationship with Russia on many fronts and the door to dialogue remains open.  We must all work together to overcome this common threat that knows no boundaries. The United States and Russia have provided humanitarian assistance to each other during past crises and will no doubt do so again in the future,” the spokesperson noted.

Moscow’s request for medical aid comes after it sent what it called “humanitarian aid” to the U.S. in early April as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in New York. Russia sent the U.S. a cargo of medical supplies, including ventilators, but the act of largesse has not been without controversy.

Critics said Russia had sent the medical supplies as a way to soften the U.S.’ stance on sanctions on Russia (Moscow vehemently denied the aid was aimed at relaxing sanctions) and then safety concerns prompted the U.S. to put a stop to any use of the Russian-made ventilators it was sent after the same model — the Aventa-M ventilator — was investigated as the potential cause of two deadly fires in Russian hospitals that killed several Covid-19 patients.

U.S. aid to Russia comes as its commitment to the World Health Organization, which has tried to lead a global response to the coronavirus pandemic, looks increasingly fragile.

Trump said on Tuesday that the WHO must “clean up” its act or the U.S. won’t “be involved with them anymore.” Trump had threatened to pull support from the agency permanently Monday and gave it a 30-day deadline to implement changes.

The State Dept. spokesperson told CNBC that the U.S. is “the largest contributor to global public health and has committed over 15,000 ventilators to more than 50 countries, including our European Allies and partners.”

“Through the generosity of the American people and private industry innovation, the United States is providing critical medical supplies and ventilators to people in need around the world.”



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