Coronavirus: Russian ventilators shared with US were built by company on Trump's sanctions list

'Aren’t ventilators needed in the United States?' a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson asks

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Friday 03 April 2020 21:00
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Trump says ventilators being held back ahead of expected 'surge' in cases

A delivery of ventilators, transported from Moscow to New York this week to help deal with the coronavirus pandemic, were manufactured by a Russian company that is currently subject to US sanctions.

NBC News reports that as the boxes of desperately needed ventilators were unloaded at New York’s John F Kennedy Airport, they were discovered to be a model of ventilator called the ‘Aventa-M’ — manufactured by the subsidiary of a sanctioned Russian firm.

Russian media group RBC identified the manufacturer as Ural Instrument Engineering Plant (UPZ), based in Chelyabinsk, almost 1,000 miles east of Moscow. UPZ is part of Concern Radio-Electric Technologies (KRET), a unit of defence and technology conglomerate Rostec.

Both KRET and Rostec have been sanctioned by the US since 2014, forbidding US firms and citizens from doing business with them.

The delivery of ventilators came after a phone call between President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

Characterised as a humanitarian mission by the Kremlin, it was initially assumed that the equipment on board was a donation by the Russian Federation. However, a statement by the State Department corrected that assumption.

“As a follow-up to the March 30 phone call between President Trump and President Putin, the United States has agreed to purchase needed medical supplies, including ventilators and personal protection equipment, from Russia, which were handed over to FEMA on April 1 in New York City.”

However, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told Russian media that the cost of the cargo was split 50/50 between the US and the sovereign wealth fund Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). RDIF has been under US sanctions since 2015.

However, a State Department official told NBC News: “The Russian Direct Investment Fund is subject to certain debt and equity-related sectoral sanctions, which would not apply to transactions for the provision of medical equipment and supplies.”

The move has caused a storm on both sides of the Atlantic, with Trump critics describing the deal as helping Putin with a prestige project that will be used for propaganda purposes, and critics of Putin questioning why equipment is being sent to the US when it is badly needed in Russia.

The Doctors Alliance, a group of Russian medical professionals, tweeted: “Well, great. We have been collecting donations to buy our medical personnel protective gear, and our authorities sell [personal protective equipment] to the US. It is simply a farce.”

Reuters reports that Ms Zakharova expressed surprise and disappointment that anyone was questioning what Moscow has cast as a sincere goodwill gesture meant to help the United States at a time of crisis.

“Aren’t ventilators needed in the United States?,” she said, adding that Russia could take them back if they were not wanted.

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