A Russian military plane loaded with medical equipment took off from outside of Moscow on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin offered Donald Trump help for the US battle with coronavirus.
“The Russian side offered assistance amid the dire epidemiological situation in America,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told state-run Channel One. “Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid.”
After his comments, 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 US and Russia over issues ranging from US 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 an earlier conversation with Trump, the US 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 US 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.
Trump warns nation of pain ahead
Faced with staggering projections that as many as 240,000 Americans will die from
coronavirus, President Donald Trump largely abandoned his optimistic tone, telling the US to brace for one of its toughest stretches as a nation.
His critics had said for weeks that Trump had been too blithe in his approach
to the outbreak, frequently telling reporters that it would simply go away. A changed president addressed the nation, one who appeared rattled by the scope of death and suffering the government’s scientists foresee.
“This is going to be a painful two weeks,” Trump said. “Our strength will be tested, our endurance will be tried.”
The president’s tone has turned markedly darker this week, after the latest projections over the weekend propelled him to abandon his ambition of re-opening parts of the country on Easter.
“We’re going through the worst thing that the country’s probably ever seen,” Trump said. Trump has been widely criticised for downplaying the potential impact of the virus in the earlier days of its spread.