The US Government has insisted it is paying Russia for the 60 tonnes of equipment, including ventilators, masks, respirators and other items, countering earlier the suggestion that they were a gift. Mr Trump, who had earlier discussed the shipment with Mr Putin during a phone conversation, was pressed on the subject during yesterday’s White House news briefing – and insisted said he was happy to take delivery. He explained: “If they send things we need, I’ll take it. Nice gesture.
“It was a nice offer from President Putin.
“And I could have said no thank you or thank you.
“And it was a large plane of very high quality medical supplies and I said I’ll take it.’
Russia’s Foreign Ministry had previously said Moscow had paid half the cost with the US picking up the other half – but a senior administration official insisted Washington had contributed the full amount – while admitting the goods had effectively be purchased at a discount.
The official said: “The United States is purchasing the supplies and equipment outright, as with deliveries from other countries.
“We appreciate Russia selling these items to us below market value.”
The official did not provide an exact cost and the State Department did not respond to requests for further details.
Alina Polyakova, President of the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis think tank, told the foreignpolicy.com webiste: “This is a PR coup for the Russians.
“The United States has always had the reputation of being the global responsible first responder in moments of crisis and now you have a situation where an authoritarian state like Russia is providing humanitarian assistance to the most powerful country in the world.”
Meanwhile news of the shipment has angered critics of Putin who claim Russia is experiencing severe shortages of the same items.
Mr Putin, with the country reporting 3,548 coronavirus cases and 30 deaths, on Thursday extended a paid non-working period across Russia to reduce personal contact until until April 30 – just a week after the Kremlin insisted there was no epidemic.
The plane arrived on Wednesday at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York and the gear was to be inspected by the US Food and Drug Administration to ensure it met US quality standards.
New York is currently at the heart of the pandemic in the United States.
New York City alone has 51,809 cases and 1,562 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.
However, Governor Andrew Cuomo has warned the rest of the country would soon face the same misery, explaining: “The projections say it’s a New York problem today.
“Tomorrow, it’s a Kansas problem and a Texas problem and a New Mexico problem.”