Sun, 07 Jun 2020

The United States has confirmed the arrival of a plane carrying medical supplies it says were purchased from Russia following a phone call earlier this week between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The supplies, including ventilators and personal protection equipment needed in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, were handed over on April 1 in New York to the U.S. emergency management agency, the U.S. State Department said in a statement.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus described the purchase as a "follow-up" to a March 30 phone call between Trump and Putin.

"Both countries have provided humanitarian assistance to each other in times of crisis in the past and will no doubt do so again in the future," Ortagus said. "This is a time to work together to overcome a common enemy that threatens the lives of all of us."

Her statement did not say how much the United States paid Russia for the equipment and did not directly address the labeling of the shipment as a public relations coup for Putin.

Many critics of Moscow have warned that Russia is using aid as part of a campaign of disinformation and propaganda to sow fear abroad while bolstering Putin at home.

Ortagus did note that the Group of 20 (G20) counties agreed last week to work together to defeat the coronavirus. The United States and Russia are in the G20, and Ortagus said Washington was working closely with all G20 states and other countries "to ensure that critically needed supplies get to those in need."

'Difficult Situation'

A U.S. official said quoted by Reuters as saying the shipment carried 60 tons of ventilators, masks, respirators, and other items.

The official said the equipment would be carefully examined to make sure it complies with quality requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Earlier on April 1, the Russian mission to the UN said that a Russian cargo plane with medical equipment had landed at John F Kennedy Airport in New York.

Russia's deputy UN ambassador, Dmitry Polyansky, said the shipment was a 'good gesture of solidarity with New Yorkers who are in a very difficult situation at the moment,' according to the Russian UN Mission on Twitter.

New York is by far the hardest-hit U.S. state, with more than 83,700 coronavirus cases and nearly 2,000 deaths.

Local officials have sounded the alarm over a shortage of protective gear and life-saving equipment. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said millions more face masks and thousands more ventilators are needed by next week.

Meanwhile, Trump, who has touted his close relationship with Putin, has faced similar warnings at home from those concerned that Moscow is using such actions to gain influence and push Russia's efforts for relief from sanctions imposed for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

SEE ALSO: Coronavirus Aid Coming 'From Russia With Love' -- Or An Agenda?

U.S deaths in the coronavirus pandemic pushed past 4,000 as of early April 1, a day after Americans were told to brace for 'very painful' weeks ahead.

In Russia, where the accuracy of official data has been questioned, the number of confirmed cases has jumped in recent days, but still appears low compared with other European nations.

The country's official tally puts the total number of cases at 2,777 as of midday on April 1, with 24 deaths.

With reporting by Rossia-24, Interfax, Reuters, AFP and TASS.

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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