WASHINGTON – The United States is paying Russia for a planeload of medical equipment sent by Moscow to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, a senior Trump administration official said on Thursday, clearing up confusion as to who footed the bill.
It had been unclear whether Russia had sent the 60 tons of equipment as a gift or whether it had sold the shipment of ventilators, masks, respirators and other items.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow had paid half the cost with the other half picked up by Washington.
But the senior official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the United States paid.
“The United States is purchasing the supplies and equipment outright, as with deliveries from other countries,” the official said. “We appreciate Russia selling these items to us below market value.”
The official did not give an exact cost. The State Department did not respond to requests for further clarification on who paid for the supplies.
The plane arrived on Wednesday at John F. Kennedy airport in New York and the gear was to be inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make sure it met U.S. quality standards.
The shipment has drawn fire from critics of the Kremlin who said Russia was experiencing severe shortages of such items. Nations around the world are scrambling to get medical equipment to use against the pandemic.
The gear was sent shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the issue in a phone call.
“Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as saying by the Interfax news agency on Tuesday.